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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 7th August 2018

NIGERIA: Vice-President Osinbajo sacks spy chief after security officers blockade parliament and the ruling party's crisis deepens

Patrick Smith

This week, the action starts in Abuja where the ruling party is splitting at the seams, and then to Harare where its counterpart is celebrating an election victory no one else believes in. In Accra, President Akufo-Addo has just sacked his energy minister in a duel over anti-corruption credentials and in Kinshasa, President Kabila has summoned journalists to his farm on the day that nominations close for the presidential election.

NIGERIA: Vice-President Osinbajo sacks spy chief after security officers blockade parliament and the ruling party's crisis deepens
After a week in which the ruling All Progressives' Congress (APC) started to spin out of control with multiple defections, Lawal Daura, head of the Department of State Security, ordered his officers to block the entrance to the National Assembly this morning (7 August). Daura's order seemed aimed at preventing political realignments in the chamber, where the APC has lost its majority.

The defection of the governors of Kwara, Benue and Sokoto states from the APC to the opposition People's Democratic Party means the party can no longer get its bills through the assembly. Worse still for the party, it opens up the possibility that opposition members of the assembly could impeach President Muhammadu Buhari for claimed breaches of the constitution.

Although Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo's sacking of Daura looks bold, given that Buhari is currently holidaying in London, he had little choice. Blockading the National Assembly for party political ends is contrary to the constitution. If Buhari had let it stand, it would have been used as ammunition in the campaign to impeach him.

This latest crisis raises questions about the future of Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has joined the defectors in moving from the APC to the PDP but is trying to hold onto his position, the third most important office in the republic. This battle will be a key test of Saraki's political base.

ZIMBABWE: Violent crackdown and accusations of electoral fraud are set to stall government's economic diplomacy strategy
It took just three hours and the shooting dead of six civilians on 1 August to derail Emmerson Mnangagwa's prospects of securing an internationally-backed debt-reduction deal and billions of dollars in investment. Until then, the United States and European election observer missions were merely sceptical about the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission's delays in vote-collation and flaws in its arithmetic. That show of state violence, so reminiscent of the ousted President Robert Mugabe, sealed the observers' reservations.

Despite widespread criticism of the government's deployment of troops into the city centre, gunning down youthful protestors and beating up passers-by, no mea culpa emerged from the regime. Instead, it ladled all the blame for the killings and beatings on the opposition leadership.

With the ZEC announcing on 3 August that Mnangagwa had got past the critical 50% mark in the presidential polls by just over 50,000 votes, suspicions mounted further. As the opposition put its case together to appeal against what it claimed was a stolen election, military and intelligence officers went into default mode: rounding up activists and accusing them of planning violent demonstrations.
All of that rules out any early re-engagement with the international financial institutions and any prospects of clearing the financial logjam. Without such an agreement the state of the financial system, with the Reserve Bank having created billions of dollar-linked bond notes without the US dollars or gold to back them, looks precarious.

GHANA: Sacking of Energy Minister over renegotiated power deals will trigger heavy scrutiny of government's anti-corruption claims
The credibility of the government's anti-corruption credentials is in question following the sacking of Energy Minister Boakye Agyarko yesterday (6 August). Both President Nana Addo Akufo-Addo's office, which made the announcement, and the sacked minister were briefing enthusiastically today (7 August).

Akufo-Addo's allies say he was 'misled' into issuing an executive order pushing through the terms of a renegotiated deal with the Dubai-based Ameri company for power-generation. Agyarko had led efforts to renegotiate Ameri's deal with the government. Under the previous government the deal was criticised as exceptionally opaque, and for locking Ghana into long-term, near-ruinous financial obligations of little or no strategic value.

Agyarko's allies say he was not to blame because the President was fully aware of the terms of the renegotiation. Industry experts say both the original deal and the renegotiated version were fatally flawed because they included obscure structures which would channel state funds to third parties.

The row will not go away and anti-corruption campaigners are now targeting the government's claimed renegotiations with ENI and Vitol over the Sankofa gas project, as well as the Turkish Karpower barge project, both of which were negotiated by the Mahama government. Both are regarded as hugely over-priced but the new government has failed to convince the public it effectively renegotiated the terms.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Registration deadline for presidential candidates looms as Kabila keeps out one rival and threatens another
Don't hold your breath, but President Joseph Kabila has invited journalists to his farm, just outside Kinshasa, tomorrow (8 August). The date is the point. It is the last day on which candidates in this year's scheduled presidential elections may register.

According to the constitution, Kabila cannot stand again because he has served the maximum allowed, two terms. Yet no one expects him to go quietly. One possibility is that he could use his appointees in the Constitutional Court to bend their interpretation of the basic laws to allow him to stay on, perhaps subject to a vote in parliament.

Another is that he announces, very belatedly, his dauphin: a chosen successor who will lead the presidential party into the elections. Or there could be several other fixes, perhaps a state of emergency given the growing militia activity in the country.

Eagerly watching will be the opposition's leading contenders – former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba now back in Congo-K, and former governor of Katanga province, Moïse Katumbi, who has been refused re-entry into Congo after a year in exile.

The week ahead in brief

SOUTH SUDAN: Economic interests of Salva Kiir, Riek Machar and Omer el Beshir underpin latest peace deal but no power-sharing government for at least another six months

COTE D'IVOIRE: Ouattara's amnesty for Simone Gbagbo is another sign that he intends to run again in 2020 and outmanoeuvre his allies

KENYA: Finance Minister Rotich gives way to IMF over interest rate cap and spending cuts in exchange for extension of US$1 billion standby facility

CENTRAL AFRICA REPUBLIC: Moscow claims that Russian journalists investigating mercenaries in Bangui with links to President Putin were killed by armed robbers