Former US Ambassador to Kenya lobbying to stop South Sudan war crimes court

This is from Foreign Policy:

The South Sudanese government hired Gainful Solutions Inc., a California-based lobbying group, for a two-year contract worth $3.7 million to boost ties between South Sudan and Trump administration. As one part of the overall contract between the South Sudanese government and the lobbying group, Gainful Solutions will push to “Delay and ultimately block establishment of the hybrid court envisaged” under a 2018 peace deal between the government, led by President Salva Kiir, and his longtime rival, opposition figure Riek Machar.

Gainful Solutions is run by Ranneberger, U.S. ambassador to Kenya, speaks at news conference in Nairobi, a former career U.S. diplomat who served as ambassador to Kenya from 2006 to 2011, and the lobbyist Soheil Nazari-Kangarlou. Constance Berry Newman, a former senior State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development official under the George W. Bush administration, is also named a consultant on the project for a $5,000 fee, according to public disclosure filings from the Department of Justice.

The U.S. government is funding the process (through the African Union) of setting up the court, to the tune of $4.8m.

Here is Human Rights Watch on the court:

The Hybrid Court for South Sudan, set out in the country’s 2015 and 2018 peace deals, could be an important way to hold perpetrators to account for horrific abuses committed in a conflict characterized by unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances, rape and sexual violence, and destruction of property. More than four million have been forced to flee their homes.

The court, which would bring together judges and prosecutors from South Sudan and across Africa, is urgently needed to curtail impunity for serious crimes that continue to fuel a cycle of violence in the country. As Human Rights Watch has documented, the country’s domestic court system is not prepared to handle such sensitive, complex cases.

In 2014, the African Union undertook an unprecedented Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan, detailing the serious crimes committed by all parties to the conflict. And since the 2015 peace deal was signed, the AU Commission has been trying to secure approval from the South Sudanese authorities for the initial steps required for the hybrid court’s creation.

Everyone is rightfully outraged. More than 400,000 have died since South Sudan descended into civil war and millions more were displaced.

These revelations also highlight the many challenges the court is likely to face if and when it is eventually set up. South Sudanese political elites (on both sides of the post-2014 conflict) are not particularly keen on facing justice for atrocities committed against civilians and armed actors. It is also unclear if Juba’s friends in Kampala, Nairobi, or Addis have any incentive to inject yet another variable into the ongoing efforts to establish a modicum of stability in South Sudan.

Moral outrage alone will not move the needle. The court’s success will depend on how much pivotal actors within IGAD are willing to lean on Machar and Kiir.

As far as lobbying in Washington, DC goes, this is yet another reminder that even weak states like South Sudan are not passive members of the international system. While their options are limited on account of their position in the hierarchical structure of the state system, they still have agency and have a variety of tools at their disposal through which they can influence the behavior of much more powerful states. See also here.

What explains the low turnout in Nigeria’s 2019 presidential election?

Consider this:

At 35 per cent, the turn-out for Nigeria’s general election in February was the lowest for any presidential (and parliamentary) ballot since democracy succeeded military rule twenty years ago.

Screen Shot 2019-04-28 at 11.14.16 PM.pngAccording to the International IDEA electoral turnout database, Nigeria’s turnout in the February presidential election was the worst recorded among African states (Click on image to enlarge. Figures indicate the most recent presidential election). That is, it was lower than even in dictatorships where presidential elections are often pro forma exercises designed to stroke autocrats’ egos.

Given what is at stake, one would have expected Nigerian elites to do all they could to make sure that their voters made it to the polls. The fact that they did not suggest a major political market failure, or specific interventions by powerful actors to keep voters from the polls.

Adewale Maja-Pearce, writing in the LRB, provides one possible explanation:

Oshodi is one of the big markets in central Lagos with many Igbo traders. To their exasperation, Tinubu shut it down two days before polling, while he strolled around protected by ‘security agents’, i.e. police. This show of power – which had been preceded by threats of new ‘taxes’ on the traders if they proved ‘stubborn’ – prefigured what was to happen when voting began. A lengthy complaint by PDP agents from several of the polling stations described how ‘hoodlums and miscreants led by Musliu Akinsanya … took over the conduct of the election at the polling units … with arms and ammunition.’ They carried other ‘dangerous weapons such as machetes, charms and amulets’ but the police made no attempt to arrest them. Independent observers concurred, as did YouTube, where you can see the ‘hoodlums and miscreants’ casually trashing ballot boxes while voters flee. In other parts of the state many voters simply stayed at home. The result was that Lagos reported the lowest turnout of any state at just 17 per cent of almost seven million registered voters.

I recommend reading the whole thing. It is a fantastic meditation on the state of Nigeria’s electoral democracy.

You would think that voters in Lagos, the wealthiest state in Nigeria (with a sizable revenue base) would have more skin in the game, and therefore register a higher turnout rate. However, Nigeria is no different than most low-income democracies where turnout rates among relatively poorer voters is often higher than among the rich.

Kasara and Suryanarayan explain why this is so:

The conventional wisdom that the poor are less likely to vote than the rich is based upon research on voting behavior in advanced industrialized countries. However, in some places, the relationship between turnout and socioeconomic status is reversed. We argue that the potential tax exposure of the rich explains the positive relationship between income and voting in some places and not others. Where the rich anticipate taxation, they have a greater incentive to participate in politics, and politicians are more likely to use fiscal policy to gain support. We explore two factors affecting the tax exposure of the rich—the political salience of redistribution in party politics and the state’s extractive capacity. Using survey data from developed and developing countries, we demonstrate that the rich turn out to vote at higher rates when the political preferences of the rich and poor diverge and where bureaucratic capacity is high.

 

Litigating Nelson Mandela’s legacy

This is from Sisonke Msimang over at Africa is a Country:

Today, many younger South Africans suggest that Mandela made too many compromises.  Twenty-six years into the new era, there is a lively, angry, often chaotic debate about the role and place of the father of our nation.

umkhontoWhen the student protests began a few years ago on South Africa’s university campuses some of the young activists accused Nelson Mandela of betraying the revolution. They called him a sell-out. The elders were alarmed and hurt, but the young ones were convinced. I am of the generation that lies between the two: I was not old enough to fight for freedom but I am old enough to remember Mandela. I know that he was no sell-out.

I agree with one point the youth made however:  the revolution was betrayed. I do not place the blame at Madiba’s feet though. The blame for that lies squarely with the generation of leaders who followed him—my parent’s generation. The freedom fighters whom I respected and loved in Lusaka and Nairobi, returned home. They put down their guns and they picked up their spoons and they began to eat. Many of them have not stopped eating since. I can think of only a handful of them who I would trust with my future.

madiba

Mandela’s successors have all been lacking in one key respect or another. Thabo Mbeki’s cerebral approach to government did little to inspire the ANC’s rank and file. Jacob Zuma was a corrupt and ineffectual huckster masquerading as a populist. Cyril Ramaphosa is a multimillionaire who, while inspiring confidence among the business and middle classes, will struggle to earn the confidence of millions of South Africans who are either unemployed or underemployed.

The best hope for protecting Madiba’s legacy would be an honest and good faith attempt at solving South Africa’s structural problems — historical legacies of apartheid, lack of dependable (manufacturing) jobs, quality of education, and a fraying social sector (with crime topping the list).

Unfortunately for everyone involved, so far the country has oscillated between boardroom politicians scared stiff of the (forex) markets, and a cast of “populists” eager to exploit their control of the state for personal enrichment.

My view is that Mandela’s legacy will survive the ongoing process of undoing the legacies of colonialism/apartheid. As Msimang points out, Mandela was not a pacifist saint but a strategic politician driven by his quest for the total liberation of South Africans. To that end he was willing to play politics or resort to armed resistance, as needed.

Are term limits at risk in Benin?

downloadBenin was among a handful of African countries that voted out incumbent presidents in the “founding” multiparty elections of the early 1990s. Mathieu Kérékou, president since 1972, lost to Nicéphore Soglo in 1991, and agreed to step down.

Since then Benin has seen three presidential turnovers (with opposition candidates winning). Most importantly, Benin became one of the first countries in the region in which presidential term limits quickly congealed as part of the political culture.

All that is now at risk:

Because of changes to Benin’s electoral rules, only two parties have met the requirements to field candidates for the polls (legislative elections) scheduled for April 28, and both of them back President Patrice Talon. Among the excluded parties is the Cowry Forces for an Emerging Benin, which is allied with former President Thomas Boni Yayi and claimed the most seats—33 of 83 total—in the last legislative elections in 2015.

Talon has described the exclusion of the opposition from next month’s elections as “unfortunate.” Yet the president’s critics suspect he is being disingenuous and that the rule changes are having their intended effect: allowing Talon to consolidate power while undermining his rivals.

Without a meaningful opposition presence in parliament, there will be few checks on Talon’s power. And that might put Benin’s presidential term limits at risk. In 2017 Parliament rejected Talon’s attempts to tinker with the constitution by a mere three votes. It seems like there is more to come.

Is Rwanda faking economic data?

This is from ROAPE:

This blogpost aims to explore the question of inflation in Rwanda, which has emerged as the last remaining issue required to resolve the disagreement about Rwanda’s poverty statistics. Using Consumer Price Index (CPI) price data, the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) (2016) and the World Bank (2018) claim that poverty decreased by 6 percentage points from 45% between 2010/11 and 2013/14, and then by a further 1 percentage point between 2013/14 and 2017/18 (NISR 2018).

Rwanda3

Fig: extreme poverty rates accounting for inflation

However, blogs posted on roape.net (see the series, Poverty and Development in Rwanda on the website) have shown that the price data contained in the Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey or Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des ménages (EICV) survey itself, as well as in the separate ESOKO dataset, indicate a much higher inflation rate over this period, resulting in a sharp increase in poverty over the same period.

… This finding provides the first direct evidence of statistical manipulation as it means that NISR reported results that corresponded to a 4.2-4.7% inflation rate between 2011 and 2014, instead of the 13.8% inflation that it claims to have used.

You can read the whole post here.

The World Bank, which has repeatedly endorsed the figures coming out of Kigali, responded with this:

The key issue of Rwanda poverty measurement between 2010/11 and 2013/14 is that the consumer price index (CPI) and the NISR price index, called the Cost of Living Indicator (COLI), do not seem to be consistent. The national CPI shows that the inflation rate between 2010/11 and 2013/14 is 23%. NISR’s COLI uses the same CPI data, and the results show Kigali’s inflation rate is very similar to the national CPI trend, but other regions show very different trends. Further, the national average of COLIs show only around 5 percent for the same period, although there is no clear theory to guarantee that the national average of COLIs and the national CPI need to be consistent.

 Is NISR’s approach flawed?

A working paper by Fatima and Yoshida (2018) found NISR’s 2016 approach – the latest official methodology – to be technically sound, but the inconsistency between CPI and COLI needs further research. The working paper, “Revisiting the Poverty Trend in Rwanda: 2010/11 to 2013/14,” is publicly available. NISR and World Bank teams are initiating a new joint research program, which will start in May 2019.

Is there any evidence that NISR manipulated poverty estimates?

No. NISR made all survey data and questionnaire as well as full documentation of their poverty measurement methodology freely available to anyone on their website. NISR has been fully open to any questions and requests from the World Bank team. Indeed, NISR welcomed technical views on their methodology and expressed strong interest in benefiting from global best practices. We have not found any clear sign of errors or manipulations.

The dispute appears to be over price indices. While I would not put it past an autocratic regime like Kagame’s to fake data, I also think that the Bank is taking on a lot of reputation risk for standing with NISR. I look forward to the outcome of the Bank’s joint research program with NISR.

A potential silver lining in all of this is that NISR will emerge as a more independent outfit (relative to politicians) that is guided by methodologically-sound approaches to making the country legible to its citizens and rulers.

 

On Jumia’s IPO on the NYSE

This is from Quartz:

jumuiaJumia, the largest e-commerce operator in Africa, has today (April 12th) launched its landmark initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange.

The IPO marks a pivotal fork in the company’s journey since first launching operations in Nigeria in 2012 and expanding over time to 14 African countries with businesses across several verticals including food delivery, real estate, logistics, hotel and flight bookings.

The IPO priced the stock at $14.50. On Tuesday it closed at $43.04. Jumia started operations in Nigeria in 2012 but now has big markets in Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, and South Africa. The firm is registered in Germany. South Africa’s MTN remains its largest shareholder.

In my view the most exciting thing about the listing is that it could result in the allocation of significant amounts of capital that is needed to unlock the Continent’s online retail market and link it to the wider world market. According to the FT: 

…. mobile broadband penetration in Africa was 32 per cent, or 399m subscribers, in 2017. This was expected to rise to 73 per cent by 2022, to more than 900m subscribers.

The company said that less than 1 per cent of retail sales in the countries it operated in were conducted online, against 24 per cent in China, a sign of how undeveloped the African online market was.

I also foresee African regulators moving to force Jumia to have more of its operations domiciled on the Continent — both to create jobs and for tax purposes. The company CEO recently erroneously claimed that African countries do not have enough developers to justify the fact that its development office is in Portugal (and headquarters in Germany).

More on this here.

On Sudan’s history with coups

Coups beget coups (see, for example, the case of Ghana. More here). Furthermore, coup risk is typically highest after power turnovers, (like is the case in Sudan).

coupsFor these reasons, there is fair amount of clustering within countries when it comes to coup incidence. In Africa, Sudan leads the charts when it comes to coup incidence. According to Jonathan Powell’s data, Sudan (14) is third to Bolivia (23) and Argentina (20) in terms of the total number of both attempted and successful coups between 1950-2014 (note that this figure is different from rumored coups or other coup incidences that do not result in an actual attempt).

Because of its history with coups and military rule, it is going to be very difficult for Sudan to cycle back to civilian rule. The military has become used to governing, and will likely want to protect its turf relative to a civilian government, should one emerge.

This is not to say that establishing civilian rule is completely infeasible in Sudan. The generals in Latin America, the most coup-prone region of the world in the 20th century, have managed to shake off the habit.

It is hard to avoid comparing the events in Sudan with Egypt and Zimbabwe — instances in which mass action toppled autocrats but without the realization of full regime change. The next few weeks and months will test protestors’ patience and the overall organizational capacity of Sudan’s Civil Society.

So far it appears like there is not a high risk of intra-military fragmentation that might lead to armed conflict. I would imagine that, as a corporate entity, the military has a lot to lose should they fragment and/or come under civilian control, especially given Sudan’s emerging arms industry. Sudan has the third largest weapons industry in Africa (after South Africa and Egypt). In the short run, this might be a good thing in that it will create incentives for maintaining order within the security services. Total state collapse would be singularly bad.

 

What do poor people think about direct cash transfers?

Cash is great: more private consumption is better than less.

But societies organize out of poverty — through the provision of vital public goods and services. And low-income people know that.

This is from Khemani, Habyarimana and Nooruddin over at Brookings:

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 11.28.30 PMBuilding on prior work, we designed our survey questions to elicit views by presenting trade-offs: If the budget were spent on direct cash transfers targeted to poor people, it would come at the expense of other kinds of spending. Two different trade-offs with targeted cash transfers were presented in the allocation of (a hypothetical) additional budget for the block, a key local administrative unit in India. Respondents were told that since the (hypothetical) additional budget would be limited, the cash would come at the expense of either public health and nutrition services for children in their block or improving the quality of roads.

Of the approximately 3,800 respondents, only 13 percent chose cash if it came at the expense of spending to improve public health and nutrition (preferred by 86 percent of respondents). In contrast, if the cash came at the expense of improving roads throughout the block, the number rises to 35 percent of respondents choosing cash. These percentages are the same when we restrict the sample to respondents with little or no education, or to those who belong to historically disadvantaged caste groups. That is, the poor and less educated are overwhelmingly choosing public health over cash.

Read the whole this here.