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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 4th September 2017

KENYA: After court overturns Kenyatta's victory, opposition wants sweeping reforms to electoral commission ahead of poll re-run

Patrick Smith

We start in Kenya this week where the shock of the Supreme Court's decision to annul the presidential election is still being felt. Opposition movements and election petitioners across Africa have been heartened by the ruling. Some of the international analysts and observers who had rushed to endorse Uhuru Kenyatta's victory have sounded a note of humility as they await the court's full ruling. There is mixed news about China's multi-billion dollar deals in Nigeria. The family of a front-line political dissident in Rwanda, Diane Rwigara, say she has disappeared after a police raid but government officials contradict them. And Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa's Deputy President, is facing a slew of dirty tricks which some are linking to outgoing President Jacob Zuma.

KENYA: After court overturns Kenyatta's victory, opposition wants sweeping reforms to electoral commission ahead of poll re-run
Critical decisions about the timing of the re-run election and the management of the electoral commission will have to be made quickly in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision to annul Uhuru Kenyatta's victory in the 8 August presidential election. Key to this will be the publication of the full written opinion by Chief Justice David Maraga setting out the reasons why four of the six judges sitting on the case decided to annul the result. Although Maraga has 21 days to release it, political insiders expect to see it later this week.

If the judgement relies mainly on evidence of procedural faults in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission's management of the polls – such as tallying discrepancies between results recorded at the polling stations and those posted electronically – fresh elections may be held without a major reorganisation of the responsible institutions.

However, if Maraga's written judgement backs the claims by opposition leader Raila Odinga that there was widespread interference with the IT systems that tallied and relayed the presidential results, many will demand a wholesale restructuring of the IEBC. That could make it make it extremely difficult to meet the deadline of holding fresh elections by 31 October.

There are already loud calls from the opposition for Wafula Chebukati, chairman of the IEBC, to stand down immediately. Within hours of the judgement on 1 September, President Kenyatta said he would accept Chief Justice Maraga's decision despite his strong disagreement. But back on the campaign trail a day later, Kenyatta referred to Maraga and his colleagues as 'dishonest people', arguing that the ability of a Court to annul a popular verdict was a problem that needed 'to be fixed'.
Political and community responsibility will be tested to the limit in the coming weeks.

NIGERIA: As Chinese oil giant faces international bribe probe, Beijing agrees to finance $5.8 billion Mambilla hydro scheme
The United States' investigations are escalating into claims that China's Sinopec paid $100 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to resolve a US$4 billion dispute during negotiations to take over Addax, the Geneva-based oil trading outfit. After a company official was arrested in Geneva in March on corruption charges, the Swiss authorities fined Sinopec 31 mn. Swissfrancs ($33 mn.).

This case could prove extremely embarrassing for Sinopec, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, if the US Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission press ahead with their own investigations.

However, the dispute shows no signs of derailing the burgeoning relations between Beijing and Abuja. Indeed, as US companies cut their investments in Nigeria's oil industry as well as their purchases of Nigerian crude, their Chinese counterparts are stepping up trade with Africa's biggest producer. This month Power Minister Babatunde Fashola announced that China's Civil Engineering Construction Corporation has won a $5.8 bn. contract to build the 3,000 Megawatt Mambilla hyrdro-electric plant. China Exim Bank will finance 85% of the contract with Nigeria providing the rest. The project is to take six years, said Fashola.

RWANDA: Disqualified presidential contender and regime critic is missing after arrest, say family
The whereabouts of Diane Rwigara, a human rights activist who was barred from contesting last month's presidential election, are unknown, say her family, following a police raid on her house in Kigali last week. Rwigara and three siblings were taken from her house for questioning on 29 August, according to the police who insist none of them were detained.

Until three years ago, Rwigara's father Assinapolhad been close to President Paul Kagame and other top figures in the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front, but he fell out with them and in February 2015 died in a car crash which his family and others insist was a murder.

Her father's death pushed Diane, a chartered accountant, into politics. Rwigara's application to run in the presidential election was rejected after the government said that some of the over 1,000 signatures backing her candidacy had been forged.

Following that rejection, Rwigera announced she would start a new political group, the People's Salvation Movement. Days later the Rwandan revenue authority said that the family company, Premier Tobacco, owes 6.6 bn. Rwandan francs ($7.8 mn.) in back taxes.

GHANA: After Accra mission, IMF sees signs of economic recovery and extends programme for another year
A decision last week by the International Monetary Fund to extend its credit facility to Ghana for another year has resolved a glitch in its relations with President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's government. For several months, top officials in Akufo-Addo's government had said they wanted an early end to the IMF facility as it was unnecessary both in terms of the financing it brought and its macro-economic conditions.

In June, Germany invited Ghana to join its Africa economic partnership programme which would yield more financing than the IMF's three year $930 mn. facility.

There were other complicating factors to the IMF's relations with Ghana's new government. Many officials had wanted the IMF to be far more critical of the previous government's breach of its commitments to the fund on the budget deficit and state spending. Instead, the IMF had issued a highly diplomatic statement about 'its concerns' three months prior to last December's national elections.

Since the Akufo-Addo government took over, the IMF has been far more forthright about Ghana's economic plight and has made stern warnings about borrowing plans. In last week's statement, IMF officials referred to 'encouraging steps' by the authorities and signs of 'economic recovery'. Both fund officials and commercial bankers say the Akufo-Addo government is much more serious about budgetary discipline than its predecessor. This year the budget deficit is forecast at 6.3%, compared with 9.3% last year.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa faces 'apartheid-style' dirty tricks in race to lead ANC
Two leading African National Congress figures – Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu – have condemned 'dirty tricks' against Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's campaign for the leadership of the party. They said there is evidence that state resources and intelligence service personnel were used to hack Ramaphosa's email accounts.

Apart from damaging Ramaphosa’s electioneering, the stories, which broke over the weekend, may distract attention from what could be another difficult week for President Jacob Zuma. Tomorrow (5 September), the Constitutional Court is due to rule on whether there should be a judicial investigation into Zuma's breaching of the constitution. Also on 5 September, opposition parties in parliament are to push ahead with a vote for an early election to cut short Zuma's second term.

Referring to the hacked emails, the Johannesburg weekly, the Sunday Independent contacted Ramaphosa with a slew of questions about alleged marital infidelities. In response to the newspaper's story, Ramaphosa issued a lengthy rebuttal of the accusations and some of the women named in the account have come forward to back his version of events.

Mantashe went on to say the tricks were reminiscent of tactics used by the former apartheid regime. That is about as damning as condemnations get in the ANC. Although it's clear they were suggesting the involvement of President Zuma in the dirty tricks both men stopped short of referring to Zuma by name. Nor did they make any reference to Zuma's ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who is Ramaphosa's main rival in the leadership contest.


ZAMBIA: Top Nigerian diplomat to mediate between President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichelema

UNITED STATES/UNITED NATIONS:US President Donald Trump will host special conference pushing reforms and cuts in UN funding on 18 September

BURUNDI: UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundicalls for the International Criminal Court to probe claims of war crimes by President Pierre Nkuruniziza's regime