Africa’s most forgotten Democrat

Who was the first leader of independent Africa who lost an election and agreed to step down?

No, it was not Mathieu Kerekou of Benin.

Because my adviser [I doubt he reads this blog] spent some of his early years in academia working and publishing on Somalia, I have been reminded quite a few times that back in 1967 Somalia’s president Aden Abdulle Osman Daar was actually the first leader of independent Africa to lose an election and agree to step down [see here].

This is a fact that many Africanists and journalists have forgotten. Please give credit where it is due.

South Africa and the AU [Rant and rave alert!!]

As you may already know South African candidate for the AU Commission Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (ex-wife of president Zuma) failed to get elected. Instead the AU extended Mr. Jean Ping’s term till June. Ms Dlamini-Zuma intends to vie for the seat again in June.

South Africa and its backyard (SADC member states) had lobbied hard for Ms Dlamini-Zuma.

The South African Business Day reports:

Mzukisi Qobo of the University of Pretoria says: “It is clear that this is an intensely divisive campaign, and plays into the hands of those who view SA as harbouring intentions of running roughshod over other countries. Unity in the AU is a facade reinforced by a poorly conceived notion of pan-Africanism.

“Africa’s political elites still think very much in terms of regional groupings — east Africa, north Africa, southern Africa and west Africa — as well as along the colonial lines of Francophone, Lusophone and Anglophone. These are realities that are there.”

SA’s foreign policy stance has been back and forth, which may have caused more divisions with countries like Nigeria and Egypt.

 But political analyst Steven Friedman does not think policy “flip-flopping” was the reason Ms Dlamini-Zuma did not get the post. With its economic infrastructure strength, other countries feared that SA would dominate Africa politically if given a chance, he says.

To which I say, why not?

What would be so wrong with a reasonably stable and important regional player taking charge of the rudderless dictators’ club institution that is the AU? The organization’s failures in the recent past – including in Libya, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Somalia, Zimbabwe, DRC, Central African Republic, etc – have been partly because no single country has managed to emerge as its de facto leader and ultimate guarantor (forget the delusional late King of Kings, he was a clown on steroids).

Instead of having a strong leadership – whether by a single country or by a group of regional representatives – the AU has opted to have weak leadership in the form of a Commission headed by nondescript individuals political lightweights unable to rally the member countries to any respectable cause. The only time the club’s dictators are ever united is when they dump on the ICC and all other manner of foreign infringement on their “sovereignty” (which to them means the right to starve, jail or murder their citizens). The existing post of a rotating presidency has also been a complete sham.

Obiang was the latest one to occupy the post. Yes, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea. This guy.

May be this episode will end Pretoria’s navel-gazing and encourage it to focus on having a coherent Africa policy that will provide strong leadership for the AU.

A leaderless organization of 54 states, new $200m headquarters or not, is a useless organization.

For more on this see here and here.

Also, check out this thought-provoking piece on the symbolism of the new AU headquarters.

The Extramarital Origins of Poverty and dictatorship?

Polygyny is widespread across many human societies….

Yet in much of the world, particularly the wealthier parts, monogamy — albeit with cheating around the edges — has flourished. Why? The article says the answer lies in the “group selection” advantages conferred by the one-wife norm, which reduces the pool of men who can’t find any wife at all, making them less likely to become socially alienated and violent. And the practice helps the elite, too: “By shifting male efforts from seeking wives to paternal investment, normative monogamy increases savings, child investment and economic productivity.”

It is important to note that:

The authors stress that it is not only monogamy that causes cultures to flourish but any “polygyny-inhibiting” cultural practices. That would include Islam’s restrictions on the number of wives men can take (four, the authors say).

In conclusion the authors note that:

it is worth speculating that the spread of normative monogamy, which represents a form of egalitarianism, may have helped create the conditions for the emergence of democracy and political equality at all levels of government. Within the anthropological record, there is a statistical linkage between democratic institutions and normative monogamy. Pushing this point, these authors argue that dissipating the pool of unmarried males weakens despots, as it reduces their ability to find soldiers or henchman.

The entire paper (click here) has more nuance than this summary depicts. You may not agree with all the implications of the findings (I for one remain dubious, I couldn’t help but suspect potentially serious cases of omitted variable bias), but it is definitely worth a read.

HT WSJ Blog here.

Why go into investment banking (as opposed to grad school)?

Davos envy and Romney’s income in the last two years (and tax rate) have got quite a few people thinking and talking about the morality and usefulness of the financial sector. The odd thing, however, is that ever more brilliant college leavers (including from my alma mater) continue to be attracted to the financial sector and not the real economy (there was a brief decline after the 2008 recession but it appears that the trend is picking up again?

So why do college graduates want to be on the street or racking up lifetime miles in consulting? The simple answer is that returns are great, as shown in this illustration from theiBanker.

HT FTAlphaville.

How Africa Tweets

Click on image to enlarge.

Just out of curiosity I did a quick calculation of per capita tweets based on the figures from Portland Communications. The biggest difference between the two rankings is Gabon. My guess is that the rather slight variation in the right and left columns (especially for the top ten) is a reflection of the fact that about 57% of tweets geolocated in the region are from the ever ubiquitous cell phones.

Ghana’s ranking on either column was rather surprising.

Top 20 (by volume) Top 20 (per capita)
South Africa
Kenya
Nigeria
Egypt
Morocco
Algeria
Rwanda
Tunisia
Mali
Cameroon
Sudan
Angola
Namibia
Niger
Burkina Faso
Ethiopia
Libya
DR Congo
Gabon
Ghana
South Africa
Kenya
Morocco
Egypt
Nigeria
Rwanda
Tunisia
Namibia
Algeria
Mali
Cameroon
Gabon
Sudan
Angola
Niger
Libya
Burkina Faso
Ghana
Ethiopia
DR Congo

More on this hear.

HT Jason Stearns.

Wade of Senegal insists on third term

UPDATE: The BBC reports that riots erupted in Dakar after a court in Senegal declared President Wade eligible to run in next month’s general election. President Wade will be seeking a third term in office.

More on this hear.

*********************************************

It looks like Senegalese may be forced to live with their country’s model of soft authoritarianism with reasonable levels of political competition for a few more years….

FT reports:

He may be at least 86 years old with 11 years as president behind him, but Abdoulaye Wade, Senegal’s president, says “he does not feel his age”, and is determined to serve another term and preside over a “generational transition” before retiring.

“In Africa we do not reason in terms of age. You find village chiefs who are 100 years old. So long as you have your wits about you, in African tradition age has advantages: wisdom (for example).” After seeing off rival veterans in polls scheduled for February 26 he would be the “last barracuda among the little fish”, he predicted in an interview in Dakar.

Senegal’s constitutional court will decide on Friday if the President can indeed run for a third term. Mr. Wade pins his hopes on legal gymnastics, insisting that the constitutional term limits enacted during his first term in office only went into force at the beginning of his second term.

Perhaps anticipating the outcome of the court ruling, the government has instituted a five-day ban on public protests beginning tomorrow (Thursday 26/1/2012). The opposition has vowed to carry on with protests should the five-judge panel of the constitutional court approve of Wade’s candidacy.

Many suspect that Wade’s insistence on running for reelection this year is part of an elaborate plan to have his unpopular son, Karim, succeed him. Karim unsuccessful tried to become Mayor of Dakar, the capital, in 2009. He is presently a “super minister” in his father’s government, overseeing dockets as diverse as energy and power, international cooperation, regional development, aviation and infrastructure.

The truth be told, the fact that Wade could even contemplate a third term is an indictment of the Senegalese opposition. They have consistently failed at uniting against Wade and have been more than willing to be bought off. Mr. Wade is well aware of this and did pass a law which permits the President of Senegal to be elected with only 25% of the vote.

It is still possible that the unpopular Mr. Wade may lose even if he gets his way in the courts.

More on the FT report here.

Resource flows in Africa

According to this figure FDI and recorded remittances appear to be trending in the right direction. Official aid and portfolio equity and private debt are not.

For more on this check out the World Bank’s new book (digital copy) on how Africa can leverage immigration to boost its growth prospects.

It’s important to remember that while overall these numbers may look encouraging, the problem of illicit capital outflows still plagues Sub-Saharan Africa (and other developing regions); and serves as an impediment to growth. Between 1970-2008 the region hemorrhaged an average of over $22b annually. Various studies (including this one) estimate that the private wealth held by Africans in tax havens and other shady depositories abroad may be upwards of $270b.

More on the politics of the ICC decision in Kenya

Here is an excerpt of a piece I have written over at African Arguments:

“While it might be too early to ascertain the full political impact of the ICC’s ruling, there is no doubt that it will provide a real test to Kenyan institutions – especially the judiciary. The courts will have to decide, amid intense political pressure, whether or not the accused are fit to hold public office and by extension whether those that want to can run for president.  Ultimately, however, a lot will turn on the decisions made by President Kibaki. Will he stand by his trusted lieutenants in Muthaura and Kenyatta or will he bow to public pressure and ditch them in an attempt to secure his legacy?”

More on this here.

ICC Kenya case ruling and its consequences

That the ICC’s website crashed an hour before the ruling was given underscores the importance of today’s ICC ruling.

In the end it emerged that charges against Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura, MP William Ruto and radio Presenter Joshua Sang were confirmed. Former police commissioner Husein Ali and MP Henry Kosgey will walk, at least for now.

The political implications of the decision will be huge.

Firstly, President Kibaki must decide whether or not to retain two of his most trusted lieutenants in the government (Messrs Kenyatta and Muthaura) even as they face charges with regard to the death of 1300 Kenyans and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. Should the president decide to stand with them I suspect that soon the courts will have to decide whether these two are fit to hold public office.

Remember that Kenya has a resurgent judiciary eager to stamp its authority as an independent institution. There will be intense political pressure from Civil Society groups to see the two step aside.

Equally interesting will be whether the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission will allow Ruto and Kenyatta to run for president in light of these developments. Again, the case might go all the way to the Supreme Court. The Kenyan constitution has a clause banning those accused of certain crimes from holding public office. The vagueness of the wording in the constitution will give the courts discretion in reaching a verdict. I suspect some activism here was well.

Secondly, Ruto and Kenyatta will find it hard to sell their candidacy to Kenyans ahead of the general elections later this year. As the process continues, it will be hard for both (whether guilty or not) to hide from the gruesome crimes that were committed in 2007-08. I therefore doubt the viability of either one running for president at the top of a ticket. If they want to be on a winning team in this year’s election they must be part of a coalition.

But coalition building will be hard. For one, cracks are already appearing in either camp. Ruto recently got kicked out of a party he tried to commandeer after defecting from ODM. Mr. Kenyatta is also facing a simmering insurgency within his Central Kenya camp. The other thing is that the Kenyan economic and political upper class has revealed a willingness to throw the two under the bus if they become too much of a baggage. It is telling that a group of Central Kenyan tycoons have started warming up to Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the man to beat in this year’s general election.

I expect a flurry of press conferences to follow shortly. But I must go to bed for now. It is 3:15 AM…

Justice, the ICC and Kenyan Politics

A panel of judges at the ICC will issue their ruling tomorrow afternoon on whether or not six accused Kenyans will stand trial. The six include two declared presidential candidates. Either way the ruling will have a non-trivial impact on the pursuit of justice for the victims of the 2007-08 post-election violence (PEV). It will also significantly shape the politics of coalition building in this year’s general elections.

Because of the ICC process, the Kenyan justice system has put on ice its own process of holding the perpetrators of the PEV to account. A non-confirmation of the charges against at least some of the six co-accused will add the 2007-08 PEV to the long list of crimes against Kenyans, many of which have been committed by the high and mighty, that have gone unpunished.

Justice is political. Therefore, there is no doubt that if the process of prosecuting the crimes committed in the PEV returns to Kenya none of the big fish will be held accountable. That is the sad truth.

This is why despite the noisy political environment, a majority of the PEV victims (and other Kenyans) still back the ICC process. At the very minimum they want justice to appear to be served.

At the moment the problem of justice remains a worry largely monopolized by the 300,000 or so Kenyans in IDP camps and the relatives of the over 1,300 who were killed. [The media and the political class are squarely to blame for this shameful situation.] For the rest of the country, focus has shifted to the politics of the general elections due later this year. To this we now turn.

Two of the accused, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta have declared their interest in the presidency. Mr. Kenyatta is currently the second most preferred presidential candidate after Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Mr. Ruto, while not as popular nationally, still commands a sizeable chunk of the votes in the country’s most populous province – the Rift Valley. The Rift Valley has also been the hotbed of political violence in country’s history, most of it over land.

A confirmation of the charges will seriously dent the presidential ambitions of Messrs Ruto and Kenyatta. It will make it harder for either of them to sell their candidacy outside of their immediate ethnic constituency. It will also give their opponents (and there are plenty) an opportunity to hold themselves as the clean candidates that ought to succeed Kibaki. Needless to say, a non-confirmation would bolster the duo’s campaigns. What will this mean for the general election?

It is common knowledge that the man to beat in the 2012 election will be Mr. Odinga. The two scenarios above will impact the outcome of the election mainly through their influence on the coalition building abilities of the anti-Odinga crowd.

More on this tomorrow in reaction to the ICC ruling.