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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Guinea Bissau – ECOWAS Seeks End to Crisis

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There are concerns that the current deadlock could reverse important moves towards political stability.

On September 20th, at the Extraordinary Meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government during the 71st United Nations (UN) General Assembly, ECOWAS agreed a plan to bring about an end to the ongoing political crisis in Guinea Bissau and the gradual withdrawal of the ECOWAS Military Intervention Force in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB).

The meeting was led by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and was also attended by President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, and the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma.

The ECOWAS plan focuses on six areas to bring stakeholders into roundtable discussions, including dissident parliament members, political parties, civil society and religious and other traditional leaders. The aim is to look towards elections in 2018, undertaking reforms to strengthen the judicial system for greater credibility and legitimacy.

According to the Liberia News Agency in the 43 years since independence, no elected head of state had been able to complete a full term in office, and likewise no government had been able to implement its mandate and programme within its term.

The political crisis has been ongoing – on July 14th this year the Supreme Court ruled that the appointment of Baciro Dja as Prime Minister, by current President Jose Mario Vaz, was lawful, an appointment that at the time was regarded as a presidential coup and part of a plan to quash reformist factions of the Partido Africano da Independencia da Guine e Cabo Verde (PAIGC), led by ex-Prime Minister Carlos Correria.

Dja and Vaz are members of PAIGC but have been involved in clashes with the majority of parliamentarians as Vaz seeks to install a new government, and is seen to be hindering efforts to move the country away from a reversion to a ‘narco state’, according to Africa Confidential.

In 2008 the UN had called Guinea Bissau the first ‘narco state’, part of a regional centre for the flow of cocaine into Europe from South America. At the time the value of the drugs trade in the country was said to be more than national income, reported UK-based the Guardian.

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Guinea Bissau has had a tumultuous history; after 13 years of guerilla conflict it won independence from the Portuguese regime in 1974. Following this were periods of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, a number of wars and economic crises which brought President Joao Bernardo Vieira – who had previously been deposed – back into power in 2005, which led to a purge of the military.

The armed forces were also claimed to be involved in the drugs trade – there have been cases of military vehicles being stopped while carrying large quantities of cocaine. While in recent years there have been moves away from the ‘narco state’, there is concern that the current political deadlock will sacrifice important gains.

Recently there have been rumours that people allied to Vaz have spent large sums on bribes in the legal sector and parliament. Similarly Vaz’s grip on public and private media has tightened, leaving little space for critical opposition voices, reported Africa Confidential.

The conflict has dampened the optimism created by the election of the Domingos Simões Pereira government in July 2014, which lasted until August 2015, and the retreat of the previous drugs-financed military regime. Political instability is taking its toll as many investors have been put off.

The UN Security Council at the beginning of September had said that there is an urgent need to ensure a functioning government and for  dialogue among key national stakeholders, including between factions of the PAIGC and the Party for Social Renewal (PRS), reported the UN News Service.

 Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

GUINEA BISSAU: New PM Named
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21028B–21029A

GUINEA BISSAU: Government Dismissed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 5, Pp. 20993A–20993C

GUINEA BISSAU: New Cabinet Formed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 10, Pp. 20739B–20740A

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CAR – Rebels Declare Autonomous Region

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Rebels stake claim to a northeastern region, as the country prepares for upcoming elections amidst continuing violence. 

The leader of a Muslim ex-Seleka splinter group, Nourredine Adam, on December 13th declared the ‘Republic of Lonogo’ in the northeastern part of the Central African Republic (CAR) an autonomous region.

The move comes just two days after December 11th polls to vote on a new constitution, necessary for the mandate of democratic rule. Adam had called for the votes to abandoned, but they proceeded under United Nations (UN) protection.

A spokesperson for the rebel group, Maouloud Moussa, commented that “what we want first of all is autonomy. Then we’ll look at how to move towards independence”, reported al-Jazeera (15/12).

CAR is currently struggling to cope with significant internal violence between the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and the mainly Christian anti-Balaka. In 2013 the Seleka rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize, prompting widespread violence. The UN currently has a 11,000 strong force in the country.

“Muslims are marginalised … The north has been abandoned by the central government. There are no roads, no hospitals, no schools.”, Moussa said.

Meanwhile the interim government, the Transitional National Council (TNC) denounced the claims. Spokesperson Dominique Said Panguindji stated, “we call upon the international community and the international forces present in Central African Republic to do everything possible to neutralise the capacity to do harm of these terrorists”.

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Professor of Anthropology at Yale University, Louisa Lombard, commented that “I don’t think that anyone in Seleka really thinks that it is feasible or viable to create an independent state in the northeastern part of the Central African Republic, but they do recognise that it is a useful negotiating tactic now as elections are upcoming”. reported al-Jazeera.

According to a report by Radio France Internationale , in the run up to the elections on December 27th there have been increasing concerns of Boko Haram militants taking advantage of the unrest in the country. Neighbouring countries Chad and Cameroon are facing frequent attacks from the group.

The UN’s Central Africa Chief Abdoulaye Bathily said,”I think it is important for the crisis in Central African Republic to be resolved very quickly and I sincerely hope that the elections will enable the country to recuperate its sovereignty and also peace.

On December 13th Deutschewelle reported that clashes had erupted in the mainly muslim district of PK-5 in Bangui. Ousmane Abakar, a muslim community leader in the district said that “it’s since last night that these extremists have taken us hostage. They have distributed ammunitions to their elements to use all day Sunday to prevent the vote”.

Earlier this month David Zounmenou, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), told Al Jazeera that he could not see the elections taking place.

Some external partners, like France, are pushing for the elections to take place, to get the country out of this stage and get the issue out of the way, but i believe this transitional government will be here for a while”, Zounmenou added.

Roughly a quarter of CAR’s total of 4.7 people have been displaced since the outbreak of violence in 2013. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that the muslim population in Bangui has dropped from 122,000 to 15,000. This level of displacement has also raised fears over the validity of the proposed vote.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Arbitrary Violence Continues
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp.20787B–20788B

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Poll Dates
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp.20777B–20778A

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Reprisals and Retaliations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue. 10, Pp.20751A–20751C

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Madagascar – Drought Raises Food Security Fears

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Adverse weather patterns lead to crop failures and increased hardship for large swathes of the Malagasy agricultural and transhumant population.

According to a recent United Nations (UN) report, around 46% of the population in Madagascar, some 1.9 million people, are food insecure with almost half a million facing chronic food shortages. The Crop and Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM), an initiative from the Malagasy government, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), identified the highest levels of food insecurity in the southern regions of Androy, Anosy and Atsimo Andrefana.

The UN stated that a significant drop in agricultural production over the last three seasons, largely due to a shortage of rainfall, has negatively affected many people, who have often responded by selling off assets and withdrawing children from school to overcome food shortages.

A number of programmes intended to eliminate hunger, improve nutrition and to promote sustainable agriculture have recently been announced. The WFP said that they would be assisting 130,000 people with a ‘food/cash-for-assets‘ scheme which are designed to improve resilience and to prepare communities for the next harvest season; those that are unable to work will be distributed food, reported a WFP press release.

The FAO have announced a ‘drought-resistant seed’ as an emergency response mechanism to ensure the replanting of over 6000 hectares of land for 13,000 households in Androy and Anosy regions. The FAO added that it had eradicated a plague of locusts that had afflicted crops between 2013-14, with help from the Malagasy government,reported the UN News Service.

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(Madagascar – Agricultural Map: www.amadeusvanillabeans.com)

Earlier on October 21st the Malagasy government and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed an agreement in Rome for finance to support the Project to Support Development (AD2M-II) in the Menabe and Melaky regions to the cost of around US$56.7 million, reported an IFAD press release.

AD2M-II aims to improve the incomes and the food security of smallholders by improving and developing irrigated agriculture and natural resource management approaches. Sana F.K. Jatta, IFAD Regional Director for the East and Southern Africa Division added that it “It will also address land tenure security and safeguarding the land rights of smallholders so that they can investment more in their land and increase their incomes”.

Much of Southern Madagascar has been afflicted by a drought, which has lasted for almost a year and led to the deaths of a number of people, while also destroying livelihoods of the agricultural population. The Mayor of Anjapaly, Bernard Tolia, said that “the death rate varies from two to 10 per day due to drought in our area”.

“It has been almost a year since we saw the last rain. People have to travel 15 kilometres, often on foot, to find drinking water. Livestock is suffering and die while cultivation is impossible due to drought,” Tolia added, cited by the Namibian.

The General-Director of Meteorology in Madagascar, Samueline Rarahiveloarimiza, blamed the drought on the El Niño weather phenomenon, stating that while the southern regions are experiencing little rain, other regions may be inundated with rainfall.

Countries identified by the UN, WFP and FAO as most at risk are Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, all already suffering extensive crop failures, and there are also concerns in Lesotho, and parts of Angola and Mozambique. Malawi is facing its worst food insecurity for a decade with 2.8m at risk coupled by widespread floods.

The WFP stated that solutions would have to involve ‘drought-resilient crops’ such as cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum and millet and supplementary irrigation in order to cope with prolonged dry spells. The WFP also said it would be monitoring the food price situation in the countries which is likely to cause further hardship if they were to rise, reported a WFP report.

At the beginning of October, the Malagasy government urged the UN to take steps towards a meaningful agreement at the upcoming UN Climate talks in Paris in December. Malagasy President Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana said that it was important to recognise that developing countries are not the main parties responsible for climate change, although they pay much of the price; he stated that Madagascar is systematically suffering from the consequences of climate change, destroying efforts towards social and economic progress, reported the UN News Service.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Cereals: Southern Africa
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20896C–20897B

Southern Africa: Devastating Floods
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.1, Pp.20704C–20706C

Madagascar: Locust Plague
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.50, Issue.6, Pp.20014C–20015A

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Africa – UN Economic Development Report

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Report highlights the potential for the service sector to catalyse growth but the Greek crisis harks back to African IMF-imposed structural reforms and the continents’ continued indebtedness. 

The United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, ‘The Economic Development in Africa Report 2015: Unlocking the Potential of Africa´s Services Trade for Growth and Development’ (available here), launched on July 8th,  provides extensive analysis of different policy issues facing Africa’s service sector and recommendations to enhance regional integration and inclusive development on the continent.

Starting with the basis that the services sector is a “critical source of income and employment…and the most dominant sector” in 30 out of 53 African countries, contributing almost half of the country’s economic output and around a third of formal employment between 2009-2012.  The reports, however, also comments that such “dynamism…has failed to translate into structural transformation” necessary for developmental needs and is delivered at a high cost.

The report claims that the services sector has the “potential to become a significant driver of sustained economic growth and structural transformation” but that this would require policies to build bridges between the “services sector and other sectors of the economy, especially manufacturing”.

The report highlights some examples where African economies are tapping into opportunities in the services sector; examples of “emerging regional services” are financial and banking services industries in Mauritius and Nigeria, the commercial and cargo air transport industries in Ethiopia and South Africa, educational services industries in Uganda and Ghana, telecommunications services in Egypt and port service industries in Djibouti and Kenya.

However opportunities aside, many African countries are feeling serious economic and social strain; the Ebola-affected countries of West Africa, tourism-reliant countries such as Egypt and Tunisia suffering from recent terrorist attacks and mineral heavy economies affected by global price drops, alongside the many regional conflicts that are hampering economic and social development.

In Ghana, the Premium Times on July 3rd reported that sources were suggesting that public debt in the country could reach 70% of GDP by the end of this year, with the Ghana Cedi loosing 99% of its value against the US dollar and increasingly high inflation. Ghana has borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 26 times since 1966, leading to the imposition of more and more conditions for the repayment of loans. The article concludes that the IMF and World Bank with extensive privatisation, foreign direct investments (FDI) and deregulations, have led to debt traps that have further encumbered and disregarded the poorest. Recently on July 7th, Ghana gave signs that it may  consider renegotiating its bailout terms with the IMF, viewed by some economists as unrealistic.

A recent commentary by Radio France Internationale draws parallels between the recent Greek economic crisis in Europe and similar actions by the IMF during the 1980-1990s in Africa. Greece, defaulting on its 1.5bn loan repayment, has felt the imposition of strict capital controls and the country is heading towards an exit from the Eurozone.

François Ndengwe from the African Advisory Board explained that “what is happening to Greece, happened to Africa for over three decades”. Dr Samuel Nyambi, Executive director of CAPDEV, a development company commented that “for myself and many other Africans, we feel a lot of sympathy with the Greeks and the reforms they’re having to swallow, because we went through the same thing with the IMF’s structural adjustment programs.”

During the 1980s-90s the IMF and the World Bank imposed a stringent set of structural reforms to repay debts owed; these reforms have been critiqued by many economists as seriously hindering economic and social development on the continent. According to GlobalInsolvency, reforms centred on the repayment of loans led to lay-offs, privatisation, salary cuts and reduced spending, that made the pursuit of long-term development agendas impossible, resulting in further indebtedness and increased poverty in almost every African country where the IMF structural reforms were implemented.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

Africa-IMF: Mission Visits and New Funding
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20852B-20855A

Africa: Competitiveness Report
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.5, Pp.20841A-20842B

Africa -IMF/World Bank: Growth Remains Solid, but Slows
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.4, Pp.20815C-20818A

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