The grand coalition staggers on, costly and unwieldy. All the top politicians and most of the contenders for the presidential election due in December 2012 are part of it, so it is hard for them to criticise an arrangement stitched together after the devastating violence that followed the 2008 polls. At the Jamhuri (Republic) Day ceremonies on 12 December, President Mwai Emilio Kibaki, 80, was sandwiched between the three leading contenders to succeed him but the speakers seemed eerily disconnected from the public’s main concerns.
For a decade, President Mwai Kibaki’s government has focused on growth and efficiency, and it has largely achieved its goals. Yet as Kibaki faces his final year in office, people are increasingly restive over the deteriorating economic situation. A nationwide strike was called in December by doctors agitating for higher pay after the government had ignored their demands for years. In September, teachers were on strike, in October, lecturers and power workers.
Military successes by African forces against the Islamist militia Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen have changed the dynamics of the conflict. However, they are far from tackling the core problem: the lack of an effective government to preside over national reconstruction. Hopes of progress towards that in 2012 look overblown, despite the growing roster of countries intervening militarily or diplomatically. Indeed, many now favour a more regional or confederal approach, arguing for the recognition of local political realities and of self-governing provincial entities.
Billboards in Khartoum celebrate the regime’s military prowess and its increasingly bellicose tactics against the newly independent South. Massive pictures of the President, Field Marshal Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir, and the Defence Minister, General Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein (now also wanted by the International Criminal Court), stare down, in uniform and unsmiling, at the dusty streets. ‘Long ago, our ancestors told us to look after the nation’, runs one poster, echoing an old song. As opposition groups step up protests and the regime responds by arresting human rights and political activists, this sounds like a threat.
The problems of a new state plague South Sudan but the biggest challenges are from the old state to the north. South Sudan and north Sudan now celebrate Independence in different halves of the year but they are still locked together and will remain so, at least until the unfinished business of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement is settled.
President Joseph Kabila’s year will start with a strenuous effort to re-establish credibility. The official results of the 28 November elections gave him 48.95% of the vote, against 32.35% for the runner-up, Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba. Few believe those figures. The European Union observers reckoned that 1.6 million votes were not properly accounted for and the protests were intense, especially in the regions and Kinshasa, where Kabila has never been much liked.
For a year that was meant to presage Nigeria’s great economic leap forward, 2012 could hardly have opened more inauspiciously. First came President Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency enforced by further deployments of soldiers in several northern states and closure of the borders with Niger and Chad in the wake of more bombings and shootings by northern-based insurgents. That prompted new threats from a spokesman for the Boko Haram militia (Jama’atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda’Awati Wal Jihad) for all Christians to leave the north within three days. With such talk of attacks and reprisals over FM radio and social media, some ex-military officers suggest that the crisis could prompt a mutiny or putsch within the army, probably among the junior officers.
Insulated from political chaos, this year’s budget assumes a gross domestic product growth rate of 7.2%. The International Monetary Fund reckons it may be just under 7%. Early in the year, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will announce the rebased GDP, the first such recalculation of national income for two decades, after lengthy research conducted with the World Bank.