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Published 1st November 2013

Vol 54 No 22


Nigeria

Jonathan’s dialogue plan outflanks rebels

Image courtesy of Panos Pictures
Image courtesy of Panos Pictures

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As the political class gets drawn into presidential plans for a national conference, the rebel state governors are running out of options

It has taken six weeks for President Goodluck Jonathan to regain the political initiative after seven state governors walked out of his party’s national conference at the end of August demanding radical change or threatening an alliance with the opposition (AC Vol 54 No 19, Punching out the PDP). Given Nigeria’s febrile political climate and the fickle loyalties of politicians some 18 months ahead of national elections, Jonathan’s recovery is not that remarkable and may not last. Despite their strong start, he has also been hugely helped by the rebel governors’ mistakes and political timidity.

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On a wing and a prayer

Goodluck Jonathan is the first Nigerian President to make an official state visit to Israel

The declared aim of President Goodluck Jonathan’s 23-29 October trip to Israel was for him to join another 30,000 Nigerians on a Christian pilgrimage and to preside over sign...


Rebels on the ropes

Barring a sudden intervention by Rwanda, little stands in the way of the defeat of M23 by a newly invigorated national army

After 20 months of intermittent fighting and stalled negotiations, the rebellion of the Mouvement de 23 mars in eastern Congo-Kinshasa could soon be at an end (AC Vol 54 No 16, M23...



BLUE LINES
THE INSIDE VIEW

Claims in the French press and from political insiders that President François Hollande authorised a 20 million euro (US$27.4 mn.) ransom to free four French hostages from their jihadist captors reinforce doubts about Sahel policy. The French public may hail their leader for saving their own – and Areva, a company of strategic importance to the French economy, is probably also delighted. Yet this short term pay-off will come at a cost to the bigger fight against terrorism and criminality in t...

Claims in the French press and from political insiders that President François Hollande authorised a 20 million euro (US$27.4 mn.) ransom to free four French hostages from their jihadist captors reinforce doubts about Sahel policy. The French public may hail their leader for saving their own – and Areva, a company of strategic importance to the French economy, is probably also delighted. Yet this short term pay-off will come at a cost to the bigger fight against terrorism and criminality in the region.

Ransoms have been central to the ability of Islamist militias to recruit fighters, bribe officials and buy arms, much as they have nourished everyone from Colombian Marxist guerrillas to Neapolitan gangsters. French citizens all over Africa are today more nervous than they were yesterday. Jihadist guerrillas also subsist on extorting smugglers, on smuggling itself and on foreign donations but a windfall of this magnitude will bring the group in question enormous change. Its prestige among jihadists will rise significantly and the militias will recoup much of the dignity they lost in the retreat from French bullets during Opération Serval.

Countries that have made the hard choice not to pay ransoms will be angered and the news will certainly chill Franco-United States relations and revive American contempt. For the traumatised captives and their families, nothing but joy can can be expressed at their safe release. The lack of a longer-term political strategy to undermine and replace the criminal networks in northern Mali and the wider Sahel opens the region to a rerun of events of the past decade. That's when jihadists and less ideological gangsters took over the regional economy and eventually, what was left of state power in northern Mali. France's military success against them last year doesn't preclude a rapid loss of those gains unless they are backed up by a clear and seriously funded political and development strategy.

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The mystery ship deal

Why is a new company linked to the security services spending over 300 million euro on a tuna fishing fleet and a mini-navy?

As tensions rise in Mozambique following rebel leader Afonso Dhlakama's abrogation on 21 October of the 1992 peace deal, more questions are being asked about the government's opaqu...


The sanctions card is worn out

Blaming the West and the MDC for the economy’s woes does not get more believable just because it’s repeated in New York and Washington

Zimbabwe celebrated World Food Day on 16 October in its own, idiosyncratic way. The local United Nations office took out an advert in the press pointing out, among other things, th...


Fights over Kabimba wrack the PF

The President is under pressure to heal the party divisions caused by the succession issue. A top party meeting resolved nothing

A long-awaited meeting of the Patriotic Front’s Central Committee on 18 October was expected to see President Michael Sata end the succession wrangles once and for all. Yet n...


Van Hoogstraten in airline sell-off

Air Zimbabwe is under new management and looks set for privatisation. The new board wants to borrow from the notorious entrepreneur and ZANU-PF donor Nicholas van Hoogstraten

The state-owned national airline, Air Zimbabwe, has approached controversial British tycoon Nicholas van Hoogstraten for cash to help revive its operations. The programme may resul...


A dam for all

Ethiopia might attract Egyptian finance for its vast dam, although many financial and technical hurdles remain

Key regional meetings are about to take place on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, probably Africa's biggest-ever development project to be undertaken without grants or concessi...


Kony keeps up the terror

After 25 years of mass murder, the Lord's Resistance Army continues with impunity as African and Western efforts fail to capture its top commanders

More than 440,000 people are currently displaced due to attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army across Central and East Africa. This is despite increased United States and African mi...


Renamo and Frelimo back to the fray

The violence stems from quarrels between leaders, not popular grievances, but the situation could spiral out of control

The unilateral decision by the Resistência Nacional Moçambicana to abrogate the 1992 General Peace Agreement with the Frente de Libertação Moçambi...


Feted and berated

Few doubt the President’s achievements but she is unpopular at home and persistent governance problems irk Western donors and the UN

In 2005, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf inherited a battered country with no infrastructure and an annual budget of US$85 million. The budget she signed on 19 October stands at $5...



Pointers

Ransom? Moi?

Delight at the safe release of French hostages Thierry Dol, Marc Féret, Daniel Larribe and Pierre Legrand on 29 October was dampened by suggestions that President Fran&ccedi...


Lessons from Luanda

Angola has been flexing its military muscles to remind Congo-Brazzaville exactly who is boss. In a security operation beginning on 13 October, Angolan forces seized 40 Congolese so...


Khama disappoints on San

Hopes that President Ian Khama Seretse Khama might adopt a more accommodating policy on the small San (Bushman) community have been dashed. Botswana continues to receive plaudits f...


Biya and the Bishops

President Paul Biya saw Pope Francis on 18 October to re-affirm, Biya’s officials said, ‘the longstanding perfect communion between Yaoundé and Rome’. Yet ...