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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 1st October 2019

MORE TALK THAN DEALS FOR AFRICA AT UN SUMMIT: Small concessions for continent's diplomats at climate change summit and meetings on security and development goals

Patrick Smith

As many of the African delegations leave the UN's summit in New York – some are preparing for the IMF and World Bank's annual meeting in Washington DC in two weeks' time – officials are assessing the wins and losses. Egypt's President returns to face deepening opposition at home, despite some high-profile UN summiteering and the timetable to fix South Africa's power company gets more urgent.  And Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto is pushing hard to upset the political balance between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ex-oppositionist Raila Odinga.

MORE TALK THAN DEALS FOR AFRICA AT UN SUMMIT: Small concessions for continent's diplomats at climate change summit and meetings on security and development goals

The flotilla of African delegations to the UN General Assembly summit won some small tactical victories on funding for climate change adaptation and security crises but no big wins on development finance and better representation for African officials within the international system.
That lessens the prospect of a breakthrough in the next international climate change policy conference in December, nor can countries such as South Africa and Morocco expect to win an exponential boost to finance for their radical new green economy plans. It was Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, who took the lead on calling for more backing for Africa's green new deal, eclipsing the formal negotiating team led by Gabon's ailing President Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba.

However, the climate change debate in New York last week shows that a growing number of African governments are looking for ways to monetise their countries' rich biodiversity, speaking out on the financial – and sometimes political – pressures to cut down hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin rainforest.

It was Angola's President Joaõ Lourenço who seized the New York summit to set out his stall – for investment –despite the massive financial losses incurred by the state over the past two decades. Strong on commitments to reform and following an IMF programme, Lourenço had little to say about how his government intends to recover what many economists reckon is over $100 billion in revenues stolen from Angola since 2002.

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi arrived in New York just as protests in Cairo and Alexandria had started against him – the most serious mobilisation that the country has seen since 2013 – suggesting that this disparate band of oppositionists had support among some junior officers at least.
A meeting with United States PresidentDonald Trump seems to have shored up El Sisi for now, such is the importance of Washington's political and financial support for Egypt's military industrial complex. But the broader campaign against El Sisi's rule shows no signs of going away.

Kenya and Djibouti spent much of the UN summit marking out territory in the campaign for a two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Kenya should be the favourite for the non-permanent seat, having secured support by 37-13 to be the African Union's official nominee at a meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee in late August. But Djibouti won't stand down.

A meeting between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh, brokered by El Sisi (this year's chair of the African Union) on the margins of the summit, failed to break the impasse.

Djibouti, which hosts military bases for several NATO members as well as China, Russia and the United Arab Emirates points to Nairobi's dispute with Somalia over its maritime border as proof that it cannot be trusted on regional security.

BACK TO A DIVIDED EGYPT: Supporters of Sisi bus in demonstrators to counter the growing but factionalised opposition movements

President Abdel Fattah el Sisi returned from the UN General Assembly in New York to stage-managed rallies of supporters on the streets of Cairo. The rallies were given lavish coverage by Egyptian TV and untouched by the police, in stark comparison to the crackdown after last weekend's anti-Sisi protests. Close to 2,000 arrests were made in the clampdown on 21-22 September.

But some security sources say the military has been restrained in its response, partly for public relations reasons and partly to hold the military together.

The regime's relentless publicity efforts shows protests, and recent accusations of corruption made by Mohamed Ali, a former contractor to the military, have rattled the regime.

SOUTH AFRICA'S POWER COMPANY CRUNCH: Minister Gordhan to announce Eskom new chief executive and rescue plan over the next month

Key decisions on the future of troubled energy parastatal Eskom are coming up: 31 October is the deadline for the announcement of a new CEO. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan is to announce a rescue plan for Eskom, to restructure its R450 billion (US$29 billion) debt burden within the coming weeks.

Insider reports suggest that former CEO Jacob Maroga and Andy Calitz, formerly of Royal DutchShell and LNG Canada, are two of the three short-listed candidates, although the process is shrouded in secrecy.

QUESTIONS ON KENYA'S HANDSHAKE HOPES: Cracks in the handshake pact

Some cracks are emerging in the 'handshake' pact between President Uhuru Kenyatta and erstwhile opposition leader Raila Odinga. The report by the Building Bridges Initiative, with proposals for radical new policies, is due for release in the coming weeks. Insiders, including Africa Confidential's correspondent, have seen a draft of the proposals and reckons they will provoke fierce opposition.

Odinga wants a referendum that could back constitutional changes to distribute positions at the top of government to reflect the country's ethnic diversity. Its opponents, led by Deputy President William Ruto, want to strangle it at birth. Ruto questions why so much time should be afforded to the 'losers' of elections: a dig at Odinga.

A referendum could take place in mid-2020 and would be regarded as a test run for the next presidential election in 2022.

Yet President Kenyatta may fear that a referendum could take six months, distracting the government from its legacy projects – the so-called 'Big Four' agenda.

Meanwhile Ruto has set his sights on Jubilee winning Odinga's old Kibra constituency in Nairobi in a by-election in November. Last week's endorsement by Kenyatta of soccer star McDonald Mariga to run on the Jubilee ticket in Kibra worries Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, presaging a return to party political hostilities.


FRESH PROTEST WAVE IN ALGERIA: Unimpressed by trials and jailing of former officials, oppositionists return to the streets en masse demanding freedom for rights campaigners and free elections

SENEGAL'S PRESIDENT FREES POLITICAL OPPONENT: Accusations of a political fix after Macky Sall pardons leading challenger Khalifa Sall, the popular former mayor of Dakar, six months after presidential election

ROYAL DIPLOMACY IN ANGOLA: Meeting between President Joaõ Lourenço and Britain's Prince Harrymay boost Luanda's chances of joining Commonwealth, alongside Mozambique

MOZAMBIQUE EYES TAX BONANZA: Maputo aims for $880 million in capital gains tax after US's Anadarko sells to France's Total, lead operator in a multibillion dollar gas export project

CELLPHONE WOES IN TANZANIA AND ZAMBIA: Lusaka cancels licences for Vodafone and its local affiliate as Vodacom Tanzania issues profits warning after regulators tell it to register all SIM cards before end of 2019