kenya is not in a constitutional crisis

Kenya’s newly emboldened imperial parliament is up to some mischief. MPs rejected nominees to two crucial commissions created by the country’s new constitution: the Revenues Allocation Commission and the Commission for the Implementation of the New Constitution. The MPs rejected the nominees to the two commissions in response to a court decision that ordered the boundaries commission not to gazette newly created parliamentary constituencies. Their mischievous excuse was that the commissions lacked regional balance.

Pols from central Kenya went to court challenging how the redistricting was done. Many of them thought that the boundaries commission favored ODM, the Premier’s party. MPs from the western half of the country, the northeast and the coastal region seem to be OK with the list. I still do not understand how in the world anyone thought that redistricting of constituencies would be apolitical. [Despite the existence of a formula in the constitution].

I am always amazed by the naivete and lack of strategy among Kenyan politicians who seem to think that public officials always have the best of intentions – never mind the fact that the country is one of the most corrupt in the world. Given the outcome, Mr. Ligale and his commissioners must have been in the pockets of ODM. The losers should learn from this and in the future design more airtight systems that assume the worst of public officials. No country has ever succeeded whose institutions depended on human goodwill.

As a result, a crucial deadline has been missed in the implementation of the new constitution and any Kenyan can go to court demanding the dissolution of parliament.

Lawyers, however, refute the notion that Kenya is in a constitutional crisis. There are ways around the matter. Firstly, the MPs can amend the constitution to give themselves more time. Secondly, the judiciary can give the boundaries commission a new lease of life and extend its mandate until the job is done. Lastly, and perhaps most plausibly, the President and his Premier can arrive at a political solution to the problem and allow the process of implementing the new constitution to move on.

And in other news, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga has very bad advisers. Asking that gays be arrested is so 16th century. In any case the last thing we want to do is waste critical police man hours policing private morality while criminal gangs continue to make the lives of many Kenyans a living hell. Mr. Odinga should know better.

crucial elections in west africa

The Ivorians have a runoff election tomorrow while the Guineans (Guinea-Conakry) get to find out who will be their president on December 2nd.

The Ivory Coast is still trying to recover from the disastrous turmoil and civil war that visited her following the death of founding president Houphouet Boigny. The civil war split the country in two, with the southerners (actually just nationalist Abidjanites) accusing most northern politicians of being foreigners. Among the said “foreigners” is the challenger in tomorrow’s election, Alassane Ouattara. Mr. Ouattara hopes to unseat Mr. Laurent Gbagbo who has been in power since 2000.

In Guinea the loser in the runoff went to the supreme court to challenge the results. The country is one of the more unstable places on the continent with a military that is lacking in discipline professionalism.

Out of the many trouble spots in West Africa at the turn of the century, Guinea (Conakry), Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast and Niger are the main laggards slowing down the region’s match towards political stability, irrespective of regime type.

The Gambia, Iran, Nigeria and the confusion over arms

Remember the story about the mysterious cache of arms found in Lagos Port, Nigeria? Well, turns out the story goes beyond Nigeria. FP reports that there is reason to believe that the arms from Iran were destined for The Gambia. Authorities in Banjul expelled the Iranian officials in the country, increasing speculation that the arms were meant for rebel groups linked to last year’s coup attempt against President Yahya Jammeh who by the way, cures AIDS on Thursdays.

Just as Libya is retreating from its bad habit of financing and arming rebellions all over the Continent Tehran appears poised to assume this role, especially in Muslim sub-Saharan Africa. There is not a clear strategic reason for this kind of involvement by Iran in The Gambia, although theories abound out there. To add to these, I think it might be that someone within the Iranian government is involved in the global drugs trade and wanted to use The Gambia as a transit to Europe. On November 19th Nigeria discovered US$ 10 million worth of heroine shipped from Iran.

West Africa plays a major role in the global drugs trade. Barely afloat West Africa states, particularly Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, are key transit points for drug shipments from Latin America and Asia into Europe.

bemba’s case begins at the icc

Jean-Pierre Bemba is the ICC’s highest profile defendant yet (The other big names from the Continent’s conflicts have been tried under the UN special tribunals for Rwanda and Sierra Leone). The former Vice President of the DRC is on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and pillage, in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Typical of most African conflicts which are labeled “civil” but are in actual sense international wars,  the DRC’s civil war extended beyond its borders. Bemba’s militia – The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) – was used by its backers in the Central African Republic to put down a rebellion in the south of CAR.

The ICC has many failings. But its deterrent effect is beginning to take hold. Justice is political, no illusions about that. However, the court’s activities provide a guarantee that in some cases, once in a while, the voice of the voiceless men, women and children who bear the brunt of the Continent’s conflicts will be heard.

The BBC has more on this.

The democratic republic of congo

Just in case you forgot, the Kivus are still on fire. Thousands of people remain displaced. Dozens routinely get killed and raped by both government and rebel forces, and sometimes even by UN peacekeepers. Things are crazy bad out there.

Meanwhile, Kabila and his cabal in Kinshasa remain as ineffectual as ever with no apparent strategy or plan, not just for the Kivus, but for the whole country.

The ICG has this nice report on the Congo. People may not agree on the priorities and approaches of resolving the conflict in the Kivu’s, but this report provides a good background for those who are new to the conflict.

Also check out this Report on the Congo from the Congressional Research Office.

guineans await final verdict

The military has declared a state of emergency and banned political protests amid anxiety over who should lead the world’s biggest exporter of bauxite. There is a risk of the political competition between Messrs Conde and Diallo degenerating into ethnic conflict, pitting the Malinke against the Peul. 40% and 30% of Guineans are Peul and Malinke, respectively. The International Crisis Group reports:

Following the announcement of presidential election results on 15 November, handing Alpha Condé victory over his rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, the country has descended into violence, with two days of clashes in the streets of the capital, Conakry, and elsewhere. Defence and security forces have engaged in systematic attacks on supporters of Diallo’s Union des Forces Démocratiques de Guinée (UFDG), a party associated mainly with the Peul ethnic group in major urban areas in the Fouta region. Earlier on, UFDG supporters were involved in attacking and destroying properties belonging to ethnic Malinké and Peul supporters of Condé’s Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (RPG) party.

Mr. Conde has offered to form a government of national unity, that presumably would include Mr. Diallo, should the Supreme Court declare him the winner.

Guinea has nearly half of all declared bauxite (Aluminium ore) reserves. 76% of its 10.3 million people depend on the agricultural sector. 47% of Guineans live below the poverty line. Per capita income stands at US$ 1000. Someone born in Guinea can expect to live to be 58 years old. Since independence the country has been led by ineffectual, ideologically deficient and backward unimaginative dictators, from Toure to Conte to Konate.

a first in kenya

Civilian control of the military is one of the hallmarks of true democracy. This ideal has however been elusive in most of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa; a region where civilian and military presidencies are scared stiff of the men in the barracks.

It was therefore refreshing to see Kenyan military chiefs answering (some) questions infront of the parliamentary committee on defense and foreign relations. This was then followed by the resignation of senior military officers implicated in the scandal. One hopes that this will then be followed by the two being court-martialed.

Former President Moi must be wondering if he time-traveled these last few days. As Kenyans would say, tumetoka mbali (we have come from far)

coup claim in madagascar

UPDATE: The BBC reports that soldiers loyal to Rajoelina have stormed the barracks where the mutinying soldiers were ensconced to restore order and discipline. It is not clear how many casualties, if any, resulted from this operation.

 

Military officers in Madagascar have announced that they are in charge and have dissolved all government institutions on the day of a crucial referendum to lower the age requirement for president. Col Charles Andrianasoavina made the announcement. The country’s Premier, Camille Vital, has however denied the coup claim in a statement supported by the country’s top military brass. The situation is still unfolding.

Current president, former mayor of Antananarivo and DJ, Andry Rajoelina, took power in a 2009 coup and wants to lower the age limit to 35 so that he, 36, can legally be president.

Madagascar, the island nation off the east coast of continental Africa, has 21.2 million people, half of whom live below the poverty line. The country’s per capita income is US$ 1000 and life expectancy is just over 63 years. 80% of the country lives on agriculture, including fishing and forestry. Early this year, Antananarivo unfairly lost its duty free access to the US under AGOA* for hypocritical political reasons.

*Africa Growth and Opportunity Act

alpha conde elected in Guinea

Opposition leader Alpha Conde has been declared the winner in the just concluded runoffs in Guinea. Mr. Conde garnered a mere 18% of the vote in the first round compared to his rivals 44%. 52% of the voters decided to side with him in the second round.

Guinea has been under an interim government led by Gen Sekouba Konate since the 2008 coup. The coup came after the death of Lansana Conte, dictator for 24 years. Mr. Conte himself rose to power in a coup following the death of Guinea’s founding president Sekou Toure.