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Washington's front bench on Africa takes shape

Career diplomats dominate the new team as the Biden administration tries to repair ties and regain influence

The nomination of Mary 'Molly' Catherine Phee as US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa on 15 April reinforces the message that career diplomats are back in charge, especially on Africa policy. That is likely to mean more power and initiative flowing to ambassadors in the region, and less prompting from Foggy Bottom.

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The battle over the bench

Judge John Hlophe swearing in Minister Bongani Bongo in October 2017. Pic: GCIS (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Judge John Hlophe swearing in Minister Bongani Bongo in October 2017. Pic: GCIS (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A bid to impeach a senior judge is part of the wider fight between loyalists of President Ramaphosa and his predecessor

It has taken 13 years for the Judicial Conduct Tribunal of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to recommend the impeachment of Western Cape Judge President, Justice John Hlophe,...


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Running out of public credit

As the Jubilee government plans a referendum on another costly bout of devolution, citizens protest against rising debt

Arguments over public debt and fiscal balance have left the cabinet rooms and think tanks for the streets. At home and in public meeting places, Kenyans are airing concerns that go...

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Addis and Asmara exchange vows

Issayas Afewerki and Abiy Ahmed, July 2018. Pic: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo
Issayas Afewerki and Abiy Ahmed, July 2018. Pic: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo

Ethiopia and Eritrea may consider a federation as the conflict in Tigray becomes part of a wider reordering of regional geopolitics

Efforts to float a trial balloon for greater closeness between Eritrea and Ethiopia by Ambassador Dina Mufti at his weekly press conference in Addis Ababa at the end of last month ...

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Eritrea entrenches in Tigray

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021
Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021

Issayas’s forces were the spearhead of Addis Ababa’s ousting of the Tigray government. They are there for the long haul

As the fog around the conflict in Tigray slowly begins to lift, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's reliance on the armed forces of his Eritrean counterpart Issayas Afewerki is becoming cl...

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States rethink security

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021
Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021

No reaction from Abuja as state governors in the south-east, like their south-west counterparts, launch a regional security organisation

After governors of the south-eastern states met in the city of Owerri on 11 April to mull a response to a wave of deadly attacks against farmers and police in the region, they anno...


Much to be modest about

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021
Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021

The economy is in slightly better shape than feared months ago but faces a toxic combination of unemployment and inflation

President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria's economy policymakers will certainly welcome the modest improvement in the country's economic outlook. According to the Yemi Kale-led Nation...


Unholy alliances

Pic: luzitanija / stock.adobe.com
Pic: luzitanija / stock.adobe.com

None of the presidential contenders can explain how they could form a majority at next year’s elections

Kenya's next president will be Raila Odinga, William Ruto or 'S'. The latter stands for 'the system'. This informs a growing assumption that with neither Odinga nor Ruto able to ch...


The state capturers fight back

Cyril Ramaphosa. Pic: GovernmentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Cyril Ramaphosa. Pic: GovernmentZA (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Corrupt officials and business allies are running multi-billion dollar rackets in state companies, derailing attempts at reform

The beneficiaries of what could be over 100 billion rand (US$6.8bn) of 'irregular spending' in the country's rickety state-owned companies over the past three years are pushing bac...


Human rights, export rights

A freight train from ArcelorMittal carrying iron ore to the port of Buchanan. Pic: jbdodane / Alamy Stock Photo
A freight train from ArcelorMittal carrying iron ore to the port of Buchanan. Pic: jbdodane / Alamy Stock Photo

As iron ore prices rocket, mining companies in eastern Guinea face up to the fallout from a massacre, and battle over export licences

Mick 'the miner' Davis, one of the latest players to enter the scramble for Guinea's iron ore riches, is facing opposition from both local communities and the mining ministry in hi...


Talons out for the opposition

Patrice Talon 11 April 2021. Pic: Présidence de la République du Bénin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Patrice Talon 11 April 2021. Pic: Présidence de la République du Bénin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

After excluding all credible opposition candidates, President Patrice Talon won another five years in office with 86% of the vote, according to provisional results released as Afri...


Chronicle of an election foretold

President Idriss Déby Itno. Pic: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (CC BY 2.0)
President Idriss Déby Itno. Pic: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (CC BY 2.0)

Chad's electoral commission has until 25 April to pronounce on the results of Sunday's presidential polls, but few are holding their breath. 'I know in advance that I will win, as ...


Access denied

A camp for internally displaced people, Dori, Burkina Faso, November 2020. Pic: Zohra Bensemra / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo
A camp for internally displaced people, Dori, Burkina Faso, November 2020. Pic: Zohra Bensemra / Reuters / Alamy

More than a million people have been driven from their homes by the insurgency of Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and other armed...


Insurgents turn up the heat

Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021
Copyright © Africa Confidential 2021

A well-planned attack on Palma in Cabo Delgado cost dozens of lives, raising questions about the future of the $20 billion gas project nearby

Although government forces claimed definitive victory on 27 March over the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jammah (ASWJ) fighters who had seized control of Palma, on the northern tip of Cabo Delgad...

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Kingdom in peril

King Goodwill Zwelithini in September 2007. Pic: Rogan Ward / Africa Media Online / Alamy
King Goodwill Zwelithini in September 2007. Pic: Rogan Ward / Africa Media Online / Alamy

The death of the Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, promises turmoil for the already volatile province of KwaZulu-Natal

The death of King Goodwill Zwelithini, 72, from Covid-19 complications on 12 March, without agreement on how the succession should be managed will complicate the kingdom's already ...


PF bets it all on the polls

Pic: johan10 / stock.adobe.com
Pic: johan10 / stock.adobe.com

Election season starts soon as lenders hang on to their funds and watch the ruling party take increasingly desperate measures to raise money

Contrary to some optimistic reports, Zambia is 'very far' from securing a bail-out deal from the International Monetary Fund, banking and official sources have told Africa Confiden...


How not to win friends

Uhuru Kenyatta adresses the United Nations General Assembly. Pic: Igor Golovnov / Alamy
Uhuru Kenyatta adresses the United Nations General Assembly. Pic: Igor Golovnov / Alamy

Regional disputes will limit Nairobi's chances of using leadership roles for influence beyond national borders


Dubaiba's honeymoon

Abdel Hamid Dubaiba. Pic: Hazem Ahmed / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo
Abdel Hamid Dubaiba. Pic: Hazem Ahmed / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo

The new unity government is being courted internationally, but it’s threatened by rivalry between myriad armed factions


Ramaphosa rallies ANC against the Zuma-Magashule axis

Ace Magashule speaks at an ANCYL rally in Pietermaritzburg, January 2018. Pic: Rogan Ward / Reuters / Alamy
Ace Magashule speaks at an ANCYL rally in Pietermaritzburg, January 2018. Pic: Rogan Ward / Reuters / Alamy

After a marathon meeting, the party's National Executive backed Ramaphosa's call for action against ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule


Life after the bulldozer

Samia Suluhu Hassan. Pic: Instagram
Samia Suluhu Hassan. Pic: Instagram

The new president needs to make changes at the top of government to consolidate her position as factions vie for favour


Gutting the opposition

Tendai Biti, September 2016. Pic: Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo
Tendai Biti, September 2016. Pic: Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo

ZANU-PF's manipulations have rid parliament of dissent and silenced criticism of high-level corruption


Abiy gives first ground

Abiy Ahmed. Pic: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo
Abiy Ahmed. Pic: Tiksa Negeri / Reuters / Alamy Stock Photo

Prime Minister Abiy has finally admitted to an open secret about Eritrean troops, but the guerrilla war in Tigray rumbles on