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Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Credit: Petterik Wiggers / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

Pushing a more vigorous development agenda and efficient administration, Dlamini-Zuma has won plaudits since taking over as AU chief

The birthday party didn’t go according to plan. It was billed as a summit to celebrate 50 years of the African Union and its predecessor, the Organisa...


The power of the south


The end of the beginning



Rare is the military intervention, especially one launched by a former colonial power, that wins unanimous support in the United Nations Security Council and nearly total backing from the 54 member states of the African Union.

The AU’s fundraising conference on 29 January raised some US$455 million for African troops to join their French counterparts in Mali. Japan pledged $120 mn., showing renewed seriousness on Africa. China’s special representative for African affairs, Zhong Jianhua, offered just $1 mn. but said Beijing would add $3-5 mn. Despite their misgivings, two researchers at China’s Naval Research Institute, Li Jian and Jin Jing, said Beijing should contribute to a peacekeeping force. A leading Chinese scholar of Africa, He Wenping, warned that, as in Libya, the force in Mali could misuse its UN mandate.

Also promising $1 mn. were Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, India and Switzerland. Bahrain pledged $10 mn. but those states where the Arab Spring brought in Muslim Brotherhood governments were more sceptical. Mounting liberal opposition at home prevented Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi from attending the summit; he called France’s intervention unnecessary. His ally Iran also objected: Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi asked rhetorically why Western powers were fighting the sort of gangsters and terrorists in Mali that they were supporting in the opposition forces attacking Bashar al Asaad’s regime in Syria. Politics triumphs again.


Alghabass ag Intallah changes sides

Last June, as jihadists consolidated their grip on northern Mali, Alghabass ag Intallah joined Ansar Eddine, to the surprise of many in the region. His father, Intallah ag Attaher, the Amenokal (clan chief), had earlier insisted that any of his followers who had joined the jihadist group should leave it.


I chose the deputy

Vice-President John Landa Nkomo died after a long illness on 17 January, aged 79. His death set in motion yet another tortuous competition for the vacant post among factions of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and others. Normally, President Robert Mugabe shies away from these struggles but he may not be able to, depending on the provisions of the new constitution. It is becoming ever more likely that under the new constitution, the gift of the vice-presidency will stay with the political party of the incumbent President, in this case, ZANU-PF. Meanwhile, aspirants are beavering away.


Holding their breath

On 4 March, Kenyans will vote for six different offices: president, senators, county governors, members of parliament, civic councillors and women’s county representatives. Under the new constitution, the winning presidential candidate must secure over 50% of the vote. For the first time in Kenya, a presidential election may go to a run-off. Yet many people do not understand the new posts and rules, including some politicians, election observers and officials.


Flashpoints on the margins

Existing tensions and struggles over resources are likely to lead to localised conflict in several areas. In Tana River, the fusion of political competition and land disputes has already resulted in ethnic clashes and hundreds of deaths.


Odinga’s fiasco

When attempts to reform the way political parties nominate their candidates failed, the Independent Election and Boundaries Commission refused to intervene. The IEBC seemed afraid to damage its credibility further than treat the party nominations as a vital preliminary to the 4 March elections.


Losing ground at the AU

The growing seriousness of the disputes between the Khartoum and Juba governments was clear at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa when Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan convened an impromptu meeting on the crisis on 27 January. Around the table were Jonathan, South African President Jacob Zuma, Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Asked to join them were Sudan’s President Omer Hassan Ahmed el Beshir and South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who are yet to reach agreement on two outstanding issues: the referendum in Abyei and the status of other disputed and claimed border areas. Both have political and strategic importance for Juba and Khartoum and both involve oil reserves.


Salva changes the guard

In a sudden and sweeping military reshuffle, President Salva Kiir Mayardit retired six deputy chiefs of general staff and 29 major generals by decree on 21 January. The idea is to transform the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) from a guerrilla force into a professional national army and renew the high command. It might also ease some of the government’s internal difficulties. Jok Madut Jok’s Sudd Institute said the move was received with ‘cautious excitement’. However, the sacking of the elected Lakes State Governor, Chol Tong Mayay, may have breached the constitution.


The recognition blues

When the United States officially recognised the new government of Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on 20 January, there was dancing in the streets of Mogadishu but there was misery in Hargeisa, at least among its rulers. Somaliland’s government has expressed its disappointment and the opposition has accused it of letting the country down. Both were unhappy that November’s intricate local elections, in which Kulmiye (Peace, Unity and Development Party), led by President Ahmed Mohamed ‘Silanyo’, came out on top, had not won the country sovereignty.


The Puntland problem

In March 2013 Puntland, the semi-autonomous region in the north-east of Somalia, will hold its first local elections using the Somaliland model (see Feature, The recognition blues). For now, Puntland is still committed to remaining part of the federal state of Somalia.



Rare is the military intervention, especially one launched by a former colonial power, that wins unanimous support in the United Nations Security Council and nearly total backing from the 54 member states of the African Union.

The AU’s fundraising conference on 29 January raised some US$455 million for African troops to join their French counterparts in Mali. Read more


Olympio’s legacy

The 50th anniversary on 13 January of the assassination of Togo’s first President, Sylvanus Olympio, passed while several important events in Lomé played down the landmark day. On that date in 1963, Gnassingbé Eyadéma shot Olympio dead and four years later took complete power for himself until his death in 2005 as Africa’s longest-serving head of state. Only a semi-détente exists between the Olympio and Gnassingbé families, who have dominated Togo’s politics.



Bogged down in Bangui

The parties to the 11 January agreement, signed in Gabon, are now at loggerheads over ministerial posts. While leading opposition figure Nicolas Tiangaye is to lead the Government of National Unity, President François Bozizé insists on Finance Minister Al...

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