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Published 17th February 2012

Vol 53 No 4


Somalia

No great expectations

Gaalkaayo, Puntland. An AK47 rifle with a strap embroidered with 'Somalia' leans against a wall. Sven Torfinn / Panos
Gaalkaayo, Puntland. An AK47 rifle with a strap embroidered with 'Somalia' leans against a wall. Sven Torfinn / Panos

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

British Prime Minister David Cameron’s grand conference will bring together many parties but no one is forecasting a breakthrough

After two decades of political mayhem, Somalis and more perspicacious foreign diplomats are intensely sceptical about high-level conferences. Many approach the London Conference on Somalia on 23 February with muted hopes of any political advance and say that its most important contribution will be to raise the profile of Somalia’s internal political and social crisis, plagued by intermittent conflict and chronic food shortage. British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague have evidently succeeded on the promotion front. Thanks to the Foreign Office’s invitations to Arab countries, it is the first big Somalia meeting in which several Muslim states are seriously involved.


The state of Zuma’s nation

The promises sound good but money may be short as the President stakes his claim to another term at the helm

President Jacob Zuma gave his third, and best, State of the Nation Address to a joint session of Parliament on 9 February. To show their growing power, the intelligence services to...



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

An apparently revitalised President Robert Mugabe has been displaying some of his old, subtle political form in recent weeks, since returning from his annual Asian winter holiday and medical check-ups. When the First Draft of the Constitution appeared on 10 February, hardliners went into knee-jerk attack mode – but he reined them in. When Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wrote him a letter, the hotheads lea...

An apparently revitalised President Robert Mugabe has been displaying some of his old, subtle political form in recent weeks, since returning from his annual Asian winter holiday and medical check-ups. When the First Draft of the Constitution appeared on 10 February, hardliners went into knee-jerk attack mode – but he reined them in. When Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wrote him a letter, the hotheads leaked it to discredit the MDC leader and please their own leader. Mugabe was decidedly displeased and tore a strip off those responsible.

Unlike many ZANU-PF loyalists, Mugabe knows that blind commitment to destroying the enemy is not in the best interests of the party at this delicate stage in the constitutional negotiations. The Southern Africa Development Community and the constitution-drafters cannot be gaoled and only a fool would try to humiliate the SADC facilitator, President Jacob Zuma, ahead of his visit to Harare.

Mugabe’s longer game is to encircle the enemy rather than charge him. He hopes to persuade his MDC coalition allies of the futility of the irksome and tedious constitutional process, and that both parties have a future together in a two-party state, a marriage of convenience. The more desperate MDC activists may agree to junk the constitutional talks and slug it out in an early election under the old rules. SADC could walk away. The ZANU-PF hotheads would cool off, the mediators might back off, and Mugabe could celebrate his 88th birthday this month in style.

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