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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 13th February 2017

NIGERIA: Anti-corruption campaign claims victory with collection of US$170 million of stolen funds

Patrick Smith

This week we start in Nigeria, where anti-corruption investigators can finally claim some success. Then we go on to Washington where President Donald Trump's top advisor on African security issues has just been blocked by the Central Intelligence Agency. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma insists he is determined to continue with his policy relaunch despite the violent clashes inside and outside Parliament last week. In Kigali, three candidates have announced they are preparing to stand against Paul Kagame in presidential elections in August and in South Sudan, a senior general has walked out of President Salva Kiir's government accusing it of running ethnic militias and torture camps.

NIGERIA: Anti-corruption campaign claims victory with collection of US$170 million of stolen funds
After 18 months of investigations and missteps, Nigeria's anti-corruption campaign is recovering hundreds of millions of dollars and building prosecution cases against some leading figures in the last government, said officials in Abuja on 12 February. More stolen government cash is likely to be found in the coming weeks, they add.

These developments come amid concern about President Muhammadu Buhari's health and efforts by the government's economic team to raise funds for an ambitious public investment programme.
Over US$170 million of stolen state funds have been recovered in the last two months, according to Information Minister Lai Mohammed. Investigators have linked some of the funds to three individuals, including $9.6 mn. in cash found in a safe in the house of Andrew Yakubu, the former head of the state oil company. The largest block of cash – some $131 mn. – was found in a secret account in a local commercial bank, Mohammed said.

This week, Africa Confidential will publish a detailed account of investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission into the management of the oil and gas industry over the past decade. There are signs that the probe is gathering pace after several missteps.
Ex-Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Madueke, now in London, furiously denied any wrongdoing last month after the Nigerian authorities froze three local bank accounts, holding some $153 mn., which investigators had linked to her.

AFRICA/UNITED STATES: CIA blocks security clearance for Africa Advisor to National Security Council as turf war heats up
The Central Intelligence Agency's blocking of high-level security clearance for former United States Marine Corps Sergeant Robin Townley, the proposed Africa Advisor on the National Security Council, points to growing differences over policy and staff. Intelligence sources in Washington say the move was authorised by new CIA Director Mike Pompeo and is also a blow against General Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor to President Donald Trump.

Townley, who has extensive experience as a counter-intelligence officer and interrogator in Africa and the Middle East, was particularly close to Flynn. Politico, the specialist news website in Washington which broke the news of the blocking, quoted security sources as saying that Townley's request for 'sensitive compartmentalised information' was rejected because of his scepticism about the CIA's methods. It added that Flynn's ties to Russia are under close scrutiny by the CIA.

These ructions could affect policy in some critical areas such as Libya, where Flynn and Townley are said to support US backing for Gen. Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, who is trying to topple the internationally recognised government in Tripoli. Haftar, who is closely allied with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, sent an envoy to meet senior members of Trump's foreign policy team last December.

Another ruction over Libya policy has surfaced, this time at the United Nations. The UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has endorsed the choice of Salam Fayyad, a former Prime Minister of Palestine, as his Special Envoy to Libya. This is against the objections of the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said the UN was too biased in favour of Palestine.

In fact, Fayyad's role will focus exclusively on national and regional developments around Libya and will have no connection with the Palestine-Israel dispute. However, his appointment could add a new energy to political negotiations in Libya and perhaps boost the UN-backed government in Tripoli under Prime Minister Faiez el Serraj, which has become increasingly reliant for its survival on a group of local militias.

RWANDA: Three opposition contenders to challenge Kagame in this year's presidential polls
Philippe Mpayimana, a journalist and civic activist who has lived mainly in exile in Belgium and France since the 1994 genocide, is the latest contender to announce that he will challenge Paul Kagame in this year's presidential election. How this band of opposition candidates fare in the run-up to the election in August will indicate how far the government is willing to make any concessions to its critics.

Few in Kigali think an opposition candidate has any chance of success against Kagame. In recent elections, there hasn't been even a semblance of a campaign and opposition contenders have been quickly shut down by state agencies.

Mpayimana worked for Radio Agatashya, which was set up after 1994 to help Rwandans who fled to Congo-Kinshasa after Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) took power in 1994.
Some Rwandan commentators have accused Mpayimana of 'trivialising' the genocide, a charge which in Kigali has the resonance of Holocaust denial, but there have been no substantiated allegations against him.

Mpayimana's bid follows announcements by Frank Habineza, leader of the Democratic Green Party, and Catholic priest Thomas Nahimana, who have both been staunch opponents of Kagame and the RPF.

SOUTH AFRICA: After parliamentary rumpus, policy shifts and a mooted cabinet reshuffle
The fist-fights in Parliament and the more serious clashes outside it wrecked President Jacob Zuma's bid to relaunch the policies of the African National Congress in his State of the Nation address on 9 February. But top ANC officials insist they will press on with their new agenda – dubbed radical socio-economic transformation – before the party's policy conference in June and leadership elections in December.

The policies flagged by Zuma in his speech, which was delayed by interruptions for 90 minutes, reworked plans for speedier land redistribution, measures to rein in the corporate banking, retail and telecommunications monopolies, and more backing for black entrepreneurs. Yet his speech was thin on detail. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a minimum wage on the eve of Zuma's address but the country's biggest trades union federation has declined to support it so far.

More information about economic strategy should emerge in Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's budget speech, due on 22 February. Rumours continue to swirl about Zuma's plans for a cabinet reshuffle in the coming months, which could mean the appointment of a new Finance Minister. Gordhan and Zuma have been at odds for many months over the activities of the Gupta family, who have nurtured close ties with the President and his family.

Some bankers at the Mining Indaba in Cape Town last week confidentially said the markets had 'already discounted' the effects of Zuma sacking Gordhan but opinion was sharply divided over the President's next moves.

One view is that Zuma would leave Gordhan in place but appoint a close ally, such as Brian Molefe, as the Deputy Minister to influence policy and decision-making. Others believe that Zuma would seek a credible successor to Gordhan who would be better disposed towards the Guptas, such as Tito Mboweni, a former Governor of the Reserve Bank who has tempered his criticism of the government in recent weeks.

SOUTH SUDAN: Dissident general quits government over claims of pro-Dinka bias
The resignation note from Lieutenant General Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the most senior officer to resign from the Juba government side since the then Vice-President, Riek Machar, fled in July, makes very serious claims against the military of ethnic bias and serial human rights abuses. It also raises questions about the viability of regional peacemaking efforts in the country.

Several of Riek's allies fled alongside him and President Salva Kiir reshuffled the government. He has been struggling to consolidate military and economic control ever since.

Thomas Cirillo, an Equatorian, stayed in Juba, number two in military logistics, after the reshuffle but his claims back up the findings of reports by United Nations' investigators and non-governmental organisations on atrocities in South Sudan's civil war. His accusations will have the added weight of coming from a top military officer. However, Cirillo, long seen as non-political, has not spelt out what his next move may be.

'President Kiir and his Dinka leadership clique have tactically and systematically transformed the SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army] into a partisan and tribal army,' Cirillo's statement said.
He added that government forces had murdered and raped civilians, and allowed local ethnic militias to do the same. 'Terrorising their opponents, real or perceived, has become a preoccupation of the government.' Cirillo also claimed that the government was running secret detention camps where inmates were routinely tortured.