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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 30th July 2019

The week ahead in Africa: East Africa, IMF, South Africa, Congo-K, Britain/UN

Patrick Smith

We start in the Hague, where the International Court of Justice is to rule on a key East African maritime border dispute, and then to Washington for the election of a new IMF chief. Then our correspondents take in land reform in South Africa, the new government in Congo-Kinshasa and Britain's decision to send troops to Mali.

EAST AFRICA: Dispute between Mogadishu and Nairobi over border in oil-rich waters to escalate despite international court ruling

The fight between Kenya and Somalia over their maritime border which covers an area reckoned to be rich in oil and gas deposits is heading for crunch time in the coming weeks when the case comes for arbitration at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Somalia referred the dispute to the ICJ in August 2014, seeking to redraw the sea boundary so that it becomes an extension of the land border south of Kiunga, covering around 100,000 square kilometres offshore.

The ICJ ruling is unlikely to resolve dispute. Kenyan officials say that President Mohammed Abdullah Mohammed 'Farmajo' has used the row for electioneering. Kenya's Foreign Affairs cabinet secretary Monica Juma has said that, whatever the ICJ ruling, Kenya will give up 'not even an inch' of the area in contention. The court's President, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, is a Somali citizen, prompting further complaints from Nairobi.

INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND: Europe and the United States persist in keeping Africa and Asia away from leadership roles

Christine Lagarde
's imminent move from the IMF to the presidency of the European Central Bank has left a vacancy at the Washington-based institution but don't expect a non-white to fill the post. In recent years pressure has grown for an African or Asian candidate to take the top job at the fund but under the 'gentleman's agreement' struck at the founding of the Bretton Woods institutions Europe, usually France, gets the leadership of the IMF while a United States citizen becomes President of the World Bank.

In 2011, South African former finance minister Trevor Manuel was viewed as a serious contender to lead the Fund but in the end the duopoly remained intact.

The eurozone and the US account for only 37% of the total voting rights at the IMF. This time, with several African countries, including South Africa, either negotiating bail-outs with the Fund, or on shaky economic ground, few are ready to challenge Europe's nominee.

SOUTH AFRICA: Ramaphosa panel's grand compromise on land reform fails to convince all sides

The panel set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to advise on the expropriation of land without compensation, has come up with a compromise which is likely to please no one. Land held purely for speculative purposes or occupied by tenants should be given away, the panel has advised, while those who bought property after the end of apartheid should be treated differently to those who inherited land under apartheid.

With the economy under rising pressure – last week the Fitch ratings agency gave a 'negative' outlook on the country's debt  – Ramaphosa's ability to push through land reforms will be limited. That will produce more strains in the African National Congress, where the faction supporting Jacob Zuma has been agitating for a radical land redistribution policy as a means to paint Ramaphosa as a lackey of 'white monopoly capital'. Ramaphosa is also facing growing opposition from Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters, who have been stepping up their campaign against Ramaphosa and his close allies Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

CONGO-KINSHASA: Shadow of Kabila hangs over new government in Kinshasa

The struggle for power this week between supporters of President Félix Tshisekedi and his predecessor Joseph Kabila enters a new phase since the formation of a new government on 26 July. The negotiations have dragged on for seven months, ever since Tshisekedi emerged as President after a dubious election.

Under the deal, the government will be led by Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunkamba (a compromise candidate who won support from both protagonists), Kabila's Front commun pour le Congo (FCC) coalition will control the pivotal defence, finance and justice portfolios, as well as the ministry of the public portfolio, which oversees state companies like copper and cobalt miner Gécamines.

Tshisekedi's Cap pour le changement (CACH) coalition will run foreign affairs, as well as the ministries of the interior, budget and economy. The FCC is the senior partner, but Tshisekedi may build up support in the regions and at the grassroots to counter the influence of his predecessor. Also, there is a succession of unresolved mining disputes involving several of Kabila's business allies which could see his political and financial influence diminish.

BRITAIN/UNITED NATIONS: Whitehall to send reconnaissance force to Mali to back French troops in the UN's deadliest operation

Britain is to help the UN shore up its peacekeeping operation, the Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des Nations unies pour la stabilisation au Mali (Minusma). Jihadists have been on the offensive in the centre of the country amid ethnic massacres between Dogon and Fulani.

More than 600 have been killed and 200,000 driven from their homes since the beginning of the year. The UK pledge came late last week just ahead of France's President Emmanuel Macron's review of strategy in the Sahel with his security team (AC Vol 60 No 15, Paris’s terror dilemma).

Britain's offer to send 600 troops to Minusma early next year sends a couple of messages. First, it reinforces Britain's commitment to UN peacekeeping operations, to which it is the sixth biggest contributor, and secondly it tells Europe that despite leaving the European Union, Britain still believes in common European security. London may expect a quid pro quo from Paris in terms of support for its operations in the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia.

The week ahead in brief

SUDAN: Negotiations on transition in jeopardy again after military attacks on demonstrators in El Obeid kill four children

UGANDA/TANZANIA: China to take US$3.5 billion stake in pipeline linking Lake Albert oil fields to coast

TUNISIA: After national mourning for President Essebsi, the government manages a constitutional succession

ZIMBABWE: With $10 billion in diamond revenues unaccounted for, questions are raised over the targeting of tourism minister for corruption