president kibaki’s weird move

President Kibaki has done quite a few good things for Kenya. He will be remembered as the president who did away with the oligarchic constitution that Kenya inherited from the Brits at independence.

That said, his recent move to appoint constitutional office holders in the justice system without consultation raises serious questions about his commitment to Kenya’s reform agenda. And it is not simply about his failure to consult the ODM in making the appointments. Mr. Kibaki ignored due process stated in the constitution. Appointments to the judiciary are required to originate from the judicial service commission.

Also, why appoint Ruto’s lawyer to be director of public prosecutions? Didn’t anyone at Harambee House see the obvious questions that would arise? As Macharia Gaitho notes:

If the Kenya Government – or rather President Kibaki’s PNU axis – is to convince anyone that it has the will to establish a truly independent local tribunal, then it could not do much worse than nominate a lawyer for one of the Ocampo Six as Director of Public Prosecutions.

Will Bashir pay for “losing the south”?

Omar Bashir faces a tough few days ahead. More than 99% of Southern Sudanese voted for secession in the just concluded referendum, effectively guaranteeing the split of Africa’s biggest country in July of this year. Many in the North blame Bashir for losing the South. The waves of protests in the Middle East following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia is adding fuel to the flames. The Independent reports:

Violent clashes broke out at two Khartoum universities yesterday as heavily armed police surrounded stone throwing students. Social media groups similar to those used elsewhere in the Arab world to mobilise protesters have started to mushroom in northern cities.

One of them calling itself “Youth for Change” has attracted 15,000 members to its Facebook page. “The people of Sudan will not remain silent anymore,” it says. “It is about time we demand our rights and take what’s ours in a peaceful demonstration that will not involve any acts of sabotage.”

Security forces arrested Hussein Khogali, the editor of al-Watan newspaper, whom they accuse of orchestrating the online protests.

And in other news, the African Union summit opened on Sunday with the Ivory Coast top of the agenda. The Continental club of autocrats body agreed to set up a five member panel to continue negotiations with Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivorian president who lost an election but refuses to step down. Also on the AU’s agenda is Kenya’s misguided attempts at battling the ICC through threats of en masse pullouts from the Rome treaty by African countries.

The failure to force Gbagbo out of power and the ill-fated fights with the ICC are additions to the litany of failures that make most on the Continent question the relevance of the AU. In my opinion regional bodies are only as strong as their dominant members. With South Africa continuing to be disinterested in regional matters and Nigeria being Nigeria the AU is guaranteed to remain rudderless into the foreseeable future.

elections and democracy in the central african republic

The Central African Republic is a country the size of Texas with a population of 4.8 million and GDP that is “significantly smaller than that of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.” Since independence from France, a string of autocrats (including the infamous Emperor Bokassa), have held power in Bangui without much care for the hinterlands. The current president, Francois Bozize, seized power in a 2003 coup. In response to domestic and international pressure, well orchestrated elections were held last Sunday.

Mr. Bozize’s “Work nothing but Work” (KNK) party is expected to win. In 2008 he signed a peace agreement with several rebel movements spread throughout the country that were opposed to his rule. Elections were part of the deal.

But of what use are elections in places like Central African Republic?

“William Easterly recently argued that “good governance” rhetoric notwithstanding, aid to dictators has remained steady since 1972. The rich countries no long have strategic interests at stake, but the “Gerund Defense” enables donors to keep the money flowing: with only a few exceptions, no matter how corrupt or autocratic a regime, it could be said to be “developing” or “democratizing” and hence on a progressive course necessitating assistance. But the dictators hold “farcical ‘elections'” and nothing changes. If we take Easterly’s warning seriously and start to question the progressivist aid ideology, what should we do about those places where elections occur, and aren’t exactly farcical, but meaningful democracy – in which citizens’ grievances and claims are taken seriously and responded to by their political leaders – remains elusive? The Central African Republic (CAR), whose citizens voted in first-round presidential and legislative elections Sunday, is one such place. In the end, the case of places like CAR might prove more insidious, because it calls into question the definitional link between elections and democracy.”

More on this here

Blackwater founder linked to Somalia

The embattled Somali transitional government is reported to be soliciting for help from a security firm that is a child of South Africa’s infamous executive outcomes and their American partner Blackwater. Executive outcomes has a checkered past, including involvement in coups and suppression of insurgencies in the more unstable parts of Africa. Blackwater came to the limelight following its casual treatment of civilian life in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The transitional federal government (TGF) of Somalia should be advised that mercenaries do not make a nation. There is nothing that will stop Saracen and their backers from turning on the same government if their incentive alignment changes. The last thing the Somalis need is the creation of a mamluk culture on top of the chaos that already exists.

My position on Somalia remains that those with power – guns and the majority of the people’s (revealed) hearts and minds – should be allowed to govern, regardless of their ideological leanings. Once they’ve tasted State House and a state visit in Vienna they can then be bought off and made part of the international community. It won’t be the first time that the international community has condoned a fundamentalist regime for the sake of short-term stability. Right now the primary need in Somalia is Hobbe’s Leviathan. Period.

The TGF was a dead on arrival delivery that continues to stifle Somalia’s chances of emerging from collapse.

 

ruto’s attempts to slow down icc process rejected

Embattled Kenyan politician William Ruto’s attempt to stop the ICC prosecutor Moreno Ocampo from issuing summons against him have hit a snag.

The three judge panel at the ICC rejected Mr. Ruto’s claim that Mr. Ocampo did not conduct proper investigations but instead relied on findings and reports by interested parties in Kenya, including the Waki Commission and the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights.

Mr. Ruto has been adversely mentioned by Mr. Ocampo’s office – along with five others – as a key mastermind of the violence that rocked parts of Kenya following disputed elections in 2007. More than 1300 people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced. Most of the displaced still live in makeshift tents in IDP camps.

More on this here.

remembering lumumba

Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost, has an editorial in the Times in honor of Patrice Lumumba, the firebrand Congolese independence leader who was assassinated 50 years ago. His death, amid the chaos of the Katanga secession, marked the beginning of the hellish catastrophe that was the land of Mobutu Sese Seko, and latterly the Kabilas.

Throughout Africa, Lumumba remains a celebrated hero. The many Lumumbas across Eastern Africa are a testament to this fact.

Whether the same would be true had he actually lived to run the vast Central African state is another question altogether. As noted by Adam Hochschild in his piece:

“Patrice Lumumba had only a few short months in office and we have no way of knowing what would have happened had he lived. Would he have stuck to his ideals or, like too many African independence leaders, abandoned them for the temptations of wealth and power? In any event, leading his nation to the full economic autonomy he dreamed of would have been an almost impossible task. The Western governments and corporations arrayed against him were too powerful, and the resources in his control too weak: at independence his new country had fewer than three dozen university graduates among a black population of more than 15 million, and only three of some 5,000 senior positions in the civil service were filled by Congolese.”

Achebe’s take on the trouble with nigeria

Chinua Achebe has an editorial piece in the NY Times on the prospects for economic and political development in Nigeria. Below is an excerpt that I think applies to most of Sub-Saharan Africa.

During the colonial period, struggles were fought, exhaustingly, on so many fronts — for equality, for justice, for freedom — by politicians, intellectuals and common folk alike. At the end of the day, when the liberty was won, we found that we had not sufficiently reckoned with one incredibly important fact: If you take someone who has not really been in charge of himself for 300 years and tell him, “O.K., you are now free,” he will not know where to begin.

This is how I see the chaos in Africa today and the absence of logic in what we’re doing. Africa’s postcolonial disposition is the result of a people who have lost the habit of ruling themselves, forgotten their traditional way of thinking, embracing and engaging the world without sufficient preparation. We have also had difficulty running the systems foisted upon us at the dawn of independence by our colonial masters. We are like the man in the Igbo proverb who does not know where the rain began to beat him and so cannot say where he dried his body.

HT Erin.

 

tunisians run their president out of town

Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has fled the country. The Prime Minister went on television on Friday night and announced himself the new president. The NY Times reports:

The apparent fall of Mr. Ben Ali, whose authoritarian government ruled for more than two decades, would mark the first time in recent memory that widespread demonstrations had overthrown an Arab leader.

The UK Guardian reports:

Opposition leader Najib Chebbi, one of Ben Ali’s loudest critics, captured the sense of historic change. “This is a crucial moment. There is a change of regime under way. Now it’s the succession,” he said.He added: “It must lead to profound reforms, to reform the law and let the people choose.”

The events in Tunisia might have ramifications in the wider Middle East and North Africa region. Regimes in Algeria and Egypt are potentially the most vulnerable. Egypt has presidential elections later this year while Algeria has been experiencing disturbances in the Annaba province.

We might be seeing the beginning of the end of the peculiar fact that there is not a single Arab democracy in the world.

Goodluck Jonathan wins pdp nomination

Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has won his party’s primary nomination. The BBC reports:

Correspondents say the margin of his victory was a huge surprise, with several central and northern states backing Mr Jonathan, a southerner.

“The People’s Democratic Party has spoken with one strong voice,” Mr Jonathan said in his acceptance speech, wearing a trademark fedora hat and black traditional robe.

The African behemoth (population > 150 million) holds elections in April. Mr. Jonathan is favored to win.

 

sustaining african (imp)unity

There is something to be said about the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has mostly concentrated on atrocities committed on the African continent. Charges of a regional bias emerging from African State Houses definitely have some truth to them. For the court to appear serious about ending offenses that shock the human conscience like genocide and ethnic cleansing it must have a balanced, global reach.

That said, the current anti-ICC mood widespread across Africa is unfortunate. The African Union (AU) defended Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir against the ICC. Now it emerges that Kenya is lobbying other African states to garner support for an anti-ICC resolution in the upcoming AU summit later this month. Four prominent Kenyan politicians, a former police commissioner and a media personality have been named by the ICC as key suspects in the violence that rocked the East African nation in 2007-08.

In retrospect, the ICC might have shot itself in the foot by aggressively pursuing the Kenyan case. Mr. Ocampo’s actions betrayed the ill-informed view that Africa’s many diverse countries are all the same. Kenya is not Sierra Leone. The country receives less than 5% of GDP in overseas development assistance and has considerable regional influence. Many have been shell-shocked by Kenyan politician’s resolve to pull out of the ICC, even in the face of international pressure. Their threats are credible because they know they can without too high a cost.

The biggest losers from this anti-ICC drive within the AU will be citizens of poorer, less able African states. It is places like Chad, (North) Sudan, Central African Republic, Niger, Guinea, Zimbabwe, among others, where the collective interests of targeted communities are more or less not represented in the capital that most need the ICC. If Kenya succeeds the Deby’s and Mugabe’s of this world will get even more emboldened.

Impunity on the African continent is on the rise, again.