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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 2nd July 2019

SUDAN: Critical week for talks on handover to civil rule after military attacks on demonstrators

Patrick Smith

We start in Khartoum where hundreds of thousands of demonstrators braved tear gas and live rounds to press the military to resume talks on the handover to civil rule. In Nigeria, there are concerns about a widening gap in the budget and the need to collect more tax and boost non-oil earnings. A week after the failed putsch in Ethiopia, more dissidents have been rounded up but there are signs the government may change strategy. The Vedanta mining company won a victory in the Lusaka courts, stopping the government's bid to wind up its operations. Political plotting over the next president gets murkier still in Kenya and the tragedy at Congo-Kinshasa's biggest mine puts a renewed focus on the health and safety of artisanal miners.

SUDAN: Critical week for talks on handover to civil rule after military attacks on demonstrators

After another round of mass protests across the country, culminating in tens of thousands of activists taking to the streets in Khartoum, pressure is mounting on the junta to respond to a plan from the African Union and Ethiopia's mediation team to hand power to a new transitional authority.
Over 190 people were wounded and at least eight killed when security forces fired live rounds into some of the demonstrations which were held across the capital. The military claims that unidentified snipers had shot protestors and some of their soldiers.

The plan includes a sovereign ruling council equally split between civilian and military (seven members each), with an independent chairperson and a council of ministers of technocrats presiding over economic and political reforms, governing for three years before national elections.

Although the plan has already been endorsed by the Declaration for Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), representing Sudanese calling for a return to civil rule, the ruling generals have yet to respond formally. Under a ruling by the AU's Peace and Security Council, Sudan's membership of the AU will be suspended by the end of July with a threat of sanctions against leading members of the junta.

To fend off further sanctions, deputy leader of the junta General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo 'Hemeti' has spent $6 million on hiring Dickens & Madson, a lobbying firm run by the Israeli ex-intelligence agent Ari Ben-Menashe, to improve its image, to buy arms and negotiate commodity deals with Russia. The junta's contract with Ben-Menashe, who is in Khartoum this week, includes an offer to send Sudanese troops to Libya to fight alongside General Khalifa Haftar, another of Ben-Menashe's clients. Ben-Menashe once represented ex-President Robert Mugabe and gave prosecution evidence against the late Zimbabwe opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, at a treason trial in Harare.

NIGERIA: As doubts grow over oil export earnings, government steps up tax collection campaign

Elias Mbam, the new chairman of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, has a central role in Nigeria's economic restructuring as the government tries to diversify away from dependence on oil and gas revenues. Mbam is the first substantive chairman to head the Commission for three years and his leadership is likely to bring in a more rigorous tax collection strategy.

The commission, which has 37 members including one from each state, also adjudicates on the salaries of politicians in the National Assembly. But the commission had been paralysed for the past three years because the legislature would not approve Mbam's reappointment as Chairman.

Babatunde Fowler, chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, says his organisation has doubled the number of registered taxpayers to 20 million using digital registration systems. It generated over N93 billion (US$258m) at the end of last year from the Voluntary Assets and Declaration Scheme which is premised on taxpayers making declarations of past earnings that had escaped the national revenue net.

ETHIOPIA: After the coup, chaos

Shock waves from the attempted coup in Amhara region continue to be felt. Several hundred arrests have been made since an alleged coup attempt resulted in the murders of regional governor Ambachew Mekonnen, army chief Gen Seare Mekonnen, and three other senior officials. The National Movement of the Amhara (NaMA), said that more than 50 of its members had been arrested, including its spokesman Christian Tadele. The attempted coup, and the chaotic aftermath, threatens to undermine Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's plans to control ethno-national forces in the country ahead of national elections planned for next year.

ZAMBIA: Vedanta twist

The dispute between Edgar Lungu's government and mining conglomerate Vedanta took another twist on Friday (28 June), when the Zambian High Court lifted an order blocking a provisional liquidator at Vedanta's Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) business from disposing of assets or making arrangements with creditors until a meeting on Thursday (4 July) hearing. Lungu's government wants to take over the site, accusing Vedanta of not paying sufficient taxes, a move which observers have compared to the resource nationalism of Tanzania's President John Magufuli.

Elsewhere, however, mining firms have obtained a minor victory. Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe said on Friday that she would delaying the implementation of a new sales tax set to come into force on yesterday (1 July) by two months.

KENYA: Murder plots most foul

The politics of the succession is already dominating Kenyan politics, and already threatens to turn ugly. Last week, three Cabinet members – Peter Munya (Industry), Sicily Kariuki (Health) and Joe Mucheru (ICT) – gave statements to the police after a letter allegedly authored by a minister, appeared to implicate them of plotting to assassinate the Deputy President, William Ruto. No charges or formal complaints have been made.

Ruto has refused to comment on the letter but his opponents have been quick to accuse him of fabricating it.

Raila Odinga and Gideon Moi used the funeral of former MP Oduya Oprong to accuse Ruto of fabricating the plot in a bid to deflect attention from the government's plans to tackle graft.
'We fully support the ongoing war on corruption and the push for an inclusive government. However, we are against early campaigns for 2022,' said Moi.

Ruto believes that he has been promised the Jubilee ticket in 2022, and was rattled by new dynamic resulting from the politics of the 'handshake' between Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Rumours have started to circulate that Kenyatta may seek to change the constitution to run for a third term, a move which Odinga's supporters in Western and Coastal Kenya might well prefer to the prospect of a Ruto presidency.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Mining tragedy

The deaths last week of 43 people illegally mining at the Kamoto Copper Company concession operated by mining giant Glencore exposed one of the darker and tragic sides of the multi-billion dollar mining industry.

Glencore says that up to 2,000 illegal artisanal miners access and work at the KCC concession every day, and enforcing security is a haphazard operation.

Interior minister Basile Olongo has promised "measures to evacuate everyone" working at the concession clandestinely.


TUNISIA: Political realignments underway after suicide bombing in Tunis and illness of President Béji Caïd Essebsi

CAMEROON: Kidnapping of veteran opposition Anglophone leader John Fru Ndi will escalate the struggle for secession

ZIMBABWE: Central bank governor to step up pressure on big companies over foreign exchange after relaunching Zimbabwe dollar