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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 16th April 2019

SUDAN: African Union's Security Commission's rejects pleas from Egypt's President Sisi and votes to suspend Sudan's junta

Patrick Smith

This week we're in Khartoum reporting on the aftermath of the overthrow of Omer el Beshir, tracking Deputy President William Ruto's campaigning in Nairobi, Zimbabwe's finance negotiations in Washington and the head of the army's latest manoeuvres in Algiers.

SUDAN: African Union's Security Commission's rejects pleas from Egypt's President Sisi and votes to suspend Sudan's junta
Should Sudan's Military Transitional Council, which ousted Omer el Beshir on 11 April, fail to hand over power to a civilian authority within 15 days, it will be suspended from the African Union, the continental body's Peace and Security Commission has ruled.

The decision is backed by the Commission's Nigerian Chairman and Moussa Faki Mahamat, the full time Chairman of the AU Commission. The decision directly contradicts calls by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, this year's AU chair, who has been lobbying for African states to recognise the new junta in Khartoum.

Apart from showing Sisi's limited influence on security matters in the region, the AU's decision will add to pressure on the Transitional Military Council led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan to make concessions to activists demanding that a new interim civilian body with full executive powers should take over.

Late on 15 April, Lt Gen Jalal al Deen Al Shekh, the new deputy head of Khartoum's National Intelligence and Security Service flew to Addis Ababa to lobby Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on the issue.

KENYA: Ruto attacks Odinga in his succession campaigning
Deputy President William Ruto, the big loser from the rapprochement and 'handshake' between President Uhuru Kenyatta and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga a year ago, is trying to regain momentum in his campaign for the presidency in 2022. Over the past year, Ruto has been sidelined and Odinga is looking more statesmanlike.

Ruto and his wealthy allies from the Rift Valley have also been feeling the heat from Kenyatta's much publicised 'war on graft'. However, behind the scenes Ruto has watered down the president's plans for the high-profile dismissal of implicated politicians.

Yet rubbishing Odinga, with whom he was once in alliance, will not be enough for Ruto. He also needs to win over a substantial number of Kenyatta's base in Central Province and Nairobi.

Local politicians there are already making clear their reservations about Ruto, dating back to the furore over his indictment by the International Criminal Court during the political violence of 2007-2008. Although the Court dropped charges against Ruto after the government refused to cooperate with the court and witnesses went missing, many relatives of the victims of the clashes complain that no one has been held to account for the mass killings within Kenya.

Ruto insists Kenyans want to move on from that period but he remains a very divisive figure. Now he is hitting out at Odinga trying to portray him as an 'unreliable ally' of President Kenyatta. By claiming that Odinga had tried to form an alliance with him against Kenyatta, Ruto is trying to undermine the veteran oppositionist's revived standing.

To cement their year-old alliance, some believe that Odinga wants Kenyatta to run for an executive prime minister role after the 2022 elections while he would run for the presidency. If such a deal was agreed, Ruto would be comprehensively sidelined.

ZIMBABWE: Finance Minister Ncube wins backing from the IMF as bread prices double at home
In Washington for the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube agreed a package of economic reforms with the Fund for a staff-monitored programme which could help Zimbabwe resolve its debt arrears crisis.

For now, Ncube's commitment to the reforms will not produce new cash from the World Bank or the IMF. Should Ncube keep the reform programme on track in Harare, the deal could unlock some commercial money for critical imports. But there are doubts that Ncube has got enough political support from President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government to push through the required cuts in state spending, much less implement tougher policies on financial accountability.

There are few details on how Ncube will be expected to cut the budget deficit or encourage private sector growth and investment. Zimbabwe needs cash desperately. It owes foreign banks over $8 billion, most of it in arrears, and has appealed for $613 million in aid to tackle the humanitarian crisis following Cyclone Idai. Bread prices in the country have doubled due to a lack of foreign exchange to buy wheat.

SOUTH SUDAN: El Beshir's overthrow raises fresh doubts about the Salva-Riek peace deal
To the north, the ending of Omer el Beshir's despotic 30 years in power, has raised hopes for a transition to democracy and a revival of an important regional economy. But some in Juba are fretting about its effects on South Sudan's fragile peace agreement.

El Beshir, long close to opposition leader Riek Machar, was one of the two regional guarantors for the October peace deal – the other being Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, a close ally of Salva Kiir Mayardit. The peace deal is approaching a milestone: the formation of a unity government by May.
On 11 April, Pope Francis kissed the shoes of Salva and Riek on their two day visit to the Vatican, imploring the two men to maintain the peace agreement that was brokered last October.

Early signs are not promising. At the weekend, Riek's fighters accused government troops of violating the country's new ceasefire just hours after it came into effect.

ALGERIA: Arab Spring protestors show no sign of being appeased
Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah's announcement of elections on 4 July has done nothing to pacify the demonstrators. Protesting after Friday prayers in Algiers for the eighth week running, activists are demanding an interim government entirely separate from le pouvoir, the shadowy alliance of politicians, business people and securocrats who have held power in one form or another since Independence in 1962.

On Monday, 40 mayors in Algeria joined the protest movement to boycott the July polls, which they say cannot be credible if held using the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.

Army chief, Lt Gen Gaïd Salah, made his first televised public address on 10 April, demanding action against the 'corrupt gangs' that had run the country, prompting some observers to note that his behaviour was more akin to that of a head of state. Bensalah, and le pouvoir that surrounded Bouteflika, are looking increasingly vulnerable in this new era.


BANKS SUE: Credit Suisse and Privinvest – both mired in financial scandals – launch lawsuits against their African partners

SOUTH AFRICA: Moody's rating agency warns Treasury about financing risks after $5 billion bail-out for Eskom power utility

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