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EGYPT: Aerial view of the Red Sea coastline. Here the Sinai desert meets the ocean, with a coral reef at the seam. Fredrik Naumann / Panos
EGYPT: Aerial view of the Red Sea coastline. Here the Sinai desert meets the ocean, with a coral reef at the seam. Fredrik Naumann / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

The Islamist revolt in the peninsula grew rapidly after Mubarak’s fall. Now, neither government forces nor their jihadist foes can control the area

Over the last ten years, radical Islamists have gained a foothold among the disaffected tribes of the Sinai peninsula and now a full-blown insurgency ...

ZAMBIA

Sata sacks Kabimba

NIGERIA

Oil, the political lubricant

BLUE LINES

THE INSIDE VIEW

Asked about the qualities needed by a journalist, the late, great Nicholas Tomalin replied: ‘Rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.’ The same could be said of many anti-corruption lawyers, judges and officials, such as Spain’s Baltasar Garzón and France’s Eva Joly and Renaud van Ruymbeke, and in Africa, Kenya’s John Githongo, Sierra Leone’s Abdul Tejan-Cole and Nigeria’s Nuhu Ribadu. All these African officials were put in charge of anti-corruption commissions. All three pursued major investigations into the theft of public money, clashed with the ruling party and state officials, and subsequently faced threats to their lives.

What then are the prospects for the latest anti-corruption star, South Africa’s Public Protector Thuli Madonsela? Angered by her determined efforts to investigate the state’s financing of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, the governing African National Congress accuses her of running a vendetta against the party and its leader and colluding with opposition politicians. Some have even questioned her patriotism.

So far she has shown herself equal to the pressure and has appealed to all sides to uphold the law. Unlike her counterparts in East and West Africa, Madonsela has an important privilege. Under the South African Constitution, the Public Protector has the status of a judge. That means that attempts to undermine the office and its holder constitute contempt of court and would amount to a criminal offence. For now at least, that would seem to shift the odds in her favour.

NAMIBIA

Geingob goes for broke

Prime Minister Hage Geingob is pushing through wide-ranging constitutional changes which will increase his power when he becomes Namibia's next President. Geingob, who is also Vice-President of SWAPO (formerly the South West African People's Organisation), is virtually assured of an overwhelming victory in this year's presidential election. Late last month, Presidential Affairs Minister and Attorney General Albert Kawana tabled the amendments in the National Assembly as the Third Bill of 2014. The Assembly was scheduled to go into recess from early July until late September but remained sitting due to what government sources said at the time was the need to approve outstanding bills. Now it would seem the real reason was to enable the constitutional amendments to be tabled, although it was not clear when the NA would debate them.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Allies lose faith

Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza's surprise choice of Mahamat Kamoun as the new Prime Minister, along with a cabinet of 31, has dismayed Central African Republic's international supporters. They believe that Samba-Panza's appointees include a number of officials who do not have the country's best interests at heart, but fear to act because they are afraid of accusations of bullying. In addition, money given to the government has gone missing and the International Monetary Fund is so alarmed that it has suspended IMF operations in Bangui. Many believe that Samba-Panza has been allowed to act in the interests of her own friends, relations and allies – at the expense of a distressed nation. They also think that a bolder approach by foreign parties could have helped prevent the current drift in policy.

SOUTH AFRICA

Crunch time for the unions

Africa's largest trades union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, celebrates its 30th anniversary and its twelfth congress next year. Yet many believe Cosatu is at its weakest since its birth at the height of apartheid in 1985. Tensions within the African National Congress have played themselves out amongst leaders within the member unions of the two-million-strong Cosatu which, together with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), form the governing Tripartite Alliance. During May's general elections, Cosatu's largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, withdrew its support for the ANC on the grounds that it had abandoned its pro-worker principles and failed to tackle official corruption. Its 220,000 members show no sign of coming back into the fold and NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim and his Cosatu counterpart Zwelinzima Vavi are rumoured to be considering setting up a left-wing grouping which would see Cosatu split from the Alliance and form a 'workers' party' to contest the 2019 elections (AC Vol 55 No 8).

SOUTH AFRICA

New ANC Youth League is Zuma's own

The new leadership of the African National Congress Youth League, which is standing for election on 24-26 September in Gauteng, will have the blessing of President Jacob Zuma and won't be challenging the governing party's policies at any time soon, say young critics. It will once again be a powerful lobby group for the ANC presidential leadership race, now due in 2019, they say. The former Treasurer of the disbanded League, Pule Mabe, is favourite to win the presidency of a reconstituted ANCYL.

LIBYA

Parliaments at sea

After Tripoli International Airport fell to Islamist-led forces from Misurata on 23 August, the victors were quick to announce that they would resuscitate the country's former Parliament, the disbanded General National Congress, in the capital. The Misuratans, coordinated by former GNC member Salah Badi, already rejected as head of military intelligence, capitalised on poor planning by the body that replaced the GNC, the House of Representatives. After relocating to Benghazi, the HoR soon found the city too dangerous and was forced even further east to Tobruk.

UGANDA

Refinery deal struck

After nearly three years of back-and-forth negotiation with oil companies, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has finally caved in. He has agreed to a much smaller oil refinery than he had hoped for and paved the way for the long-awaited development of the country's oil reserves. Following a series of disputes over issues ranging from tax to plans for developing the oilfields, the main area of contention had been whittled down to whether the crude oil should be refined or exported.

ZIMBABWE

Women and children first

The outcome of the governing party's all-important elective congress in December looks no clearer after the rival factions jostled for positions at the Youth and Women's Leagues conferences this month. The hopes of some activists within the governing Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front for some clarity about the succession to President Robert Mugabe have been thwarted again. Vice-President Joice Mujuru and her camp have lost momentum in the succession race to her chief rival, Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, although he failed to secure a clear advantage as a third faction appears to be developing. Vice-President Mujuru gained some ground in the Youth League but the imposition of the First Lady, Grace Mugabe, as the new leader of the Women's League has upset both Mujuru's and Mnangagwa's calculations.

CAMEROON

Biya's answer to Boko Haram

As further details emerge about Boko Haram's 27 July attempt to capture Amadou Ali, one of President Paul Biya's top ministers and confidants, questions remain about the adequacy of the government's response. The attack – part of a broad offensive by the jihadist insurgents in Cameroon – saw a force of 200 militants driving into the country to seize Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali, who was visiting Kolofata, his home town. They killed three before escaping with Ali's wife and other hostages. A major detachment of troops, supported by an armoured vehicle, was mysteriously recalled from Kolofata three days before the attack, Africa Confidential has learned from a source in Yaoundé. Despite calling immediately for help, Ali later complained, the special anti-terrorist unit, the Brigade d'intervention rapide, did not respond and the Boko Haram column was free to escape across the border to Nigeria. Although the attack lasted some four hours, troops only arrived 90 minutes after Boko Haram had left, we hear.

SENEGAL

Taking a chance on Casamance

The fractious politics of Casamance are holding up President Macky Sall's grand economic plans as he tries to relaunch his battered government. He believes that a breakthrough in the deadlock with Casamance separatists could pave the way for a major revival in his political fortunes. The urgent need for change was underlined on 17 August when ten young people were killed when their ox cart detonated a land mine close to Casamance's border with Gambia. Administrative and financial problems have undermined support for his presidency, resulting in heavy losses for the governing coalition in local elections in late June, and Sall urgently needs a win.

BLUE LINES

THE INSIDE VIEW

Asked about the qualities needed by a journalist, the late, great Nicholas Tomalin replied: ‘Rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.’ The same could be said of many anti-corruption lawyers, judges and officials, such as Spain’s Baltasar Garzón and France’s Eva Joly and Renaud van Ruymbeke, and in Africa, Kenya’s John Githongo, Sierra Leone’s Abdul Tejan-Cole and Nigeria’s Nuhu Ribadu. All these African officials were put in charge of anti-corruption commissions. All t...

MALAWI

Brother with a difference

President Peter Mutharika has held no mass rallies, travelled abroad just once and spoken in public only five times. Even his own Democratic People's Party (DPP) is perplexed by the change in style, according to a source in State House. Local pundits are cautious about whether or not he really is making a clean break with the past. One told Africa Confidential, 'Given the history of Malawian presidents starting out well before power goes to their heads, we are taking a wait-and-see approach'. After elections most Presidents – including Mutharika's late brother Bingu, who died in office in 2012 – hold rallies across the country, dispensing political patronage and consolidating their support. Instead, as promised, the new President has dismissed many public officials suspected of corruption or incompetence and reduced the cabinet from 32 to 20 members.

Pointers  

GUINEA

Capital flight

A storm broke over President Alpha Condé's government after Senegalese customs seized US$8 million in US dollar and euro banknotes from a small aircraft that had flown from Conakry to Dakar on 8 August. Hours later, the money was allowed to continu...

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