weekly news round up

This week saw a lot take place on the continent.

In Kenya, negotiations to restore order and legitimacy in the government and possibly grant the opposition a power sharing arrangement are in an advanced stage. The former UN boss Kofi Annan, who is chairing the talks, is scheduled to announce to the Kenyan public agreements made thus far tomorrow (Friday).  Kenyans desperately need a political solution to the crisis that has hit the formerly peaceful nation since last year’s election.

Moving North West to Chad, the president Idriss Deby has declared a state of emergency after last week’s coup attempt. Deby’s government was almost toppled by a bunch of rag-tag rebels who are believed to be in cahoots with the government of Sudan. Lucky for Deby, the French sent in their airforce which enabled the government repel the rebels who were already in the capital and ready to take control of the presidential palace. The curfew restricts movement at night and especially the movement of vehicles. The defeat of the rebels last week was surely a mere postponement of their return since the government of Chad remains weak and only concentrated in Djamena.

Down South, former Zimbabwean finance minister, Simba Makoni, announced that he was going to challenge Robert Mugabe 82, in the March elections. Makoni’s announcement was swiftly followed by his expulsion from ZANU-PF and a rejection from the main opposition chief, Morgan Tsvangirae. Zimbabwe’s opposition remains sectarian and Mugabe loves this because it does guarantee him a win in March. Makes you wonder whether these people really want Rob’s government out.

In the Comoros islands, the government announced that it was planning to carry out an invasion of the renegade island of Anjouan in an attempt to reunite the Indian ocean archipelago. Comoros consists of three islands Anjouan, Grand Comore and Moheli each with its own autonomous government. Anjouan, however, led by one Mr. Mohammed Bacar, has broken from the fold since it held controversial elections in June of last year. Majority of the residents of Anjouan seem to be in favor of the invasion by the Union government based in Moroni, the capital. It’s now a wait ands see as the government continues to amass troops on the island of Moheli. Watch this space. 

Looking ahead, President George Bush of the US is due to visit Africa. The president’s itinerary will include stops in Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Benin and Liberia. The president’s visit will mainly serve to highlight the successes of his efforts to stop the spread of aids on the continent and to distribute ARVs to those already infected. Accompanying him will be first lady Laura Bush and the “foreign affairs minister” Condi Rice.

chadian rebels finally routed

Chad, like most of central Africa, is a sad story. After days of fighting, reports indicate that the government of Idriss Deby – possibly with some help from the French – has managed to to repel rebels from the capital and gain “total control.” The question is, for how long? This was the second time in a few years that the rebels had marched into the capital and threatened to topple Deby. This was also a confirmation that the government of Chad remains weak and unable to provide security, let alone development programmes, for its own people.

The story of Chad is a story that is repeated many times on the continent of Africa. You always have very weak governments that are unable to provide the most basic of public goods to their people but that are propped up by the West- the French being the number one culprits here. The French were friends with Bokassa and Mobutu, among other francophone-African dictators who brought much suffering to their own people while maintaining strong ties to Paris and having frequent state visits to the Elysee. The opposition to these weak governments is also just as weak. The many rebels movements fighting silly wars of greed devoid of any ideological significance are too weak to win. Instead they put their countrymen through wars of attrition that keep them forever stagnant in pre-modern subsistence existence. The same applies for Political opposition parties. Think of Zimbabwe. Everyone wants Mugabe out, except Tsvangirai and Mutambara – the two men who have refused to join forces within the MDC in order to unseat Bob.

More than two decades after Achebe wrote about it in Nigeria, the trouble with Africa still remains simply and squarely a problem of leadership. There is nothing inherently wrong with Africa or the African people. The only strange thing about Africa is its ability to keep churning out more Mobutus, Bokassas and Amins and very few Mandelas.

Going back to Chad…… may be it is a good thing that Deby is still president. However, deep down I think that that Africans should think hard about their many weak and unviable states. The DRC, Somalia and many states in the Sahel some to mind. If these countries cannot get their act together they should be left to the mercy of “evolution of states” so that in the end we can have states that are viable and able to provide for their people and not kleptocracies that only benefit their leaders’ kinsmen and a few multinational corporations.

chadian government may fall soon

Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, is in deep trouble. Rebel forces are reported to have entered the capital, Ndjamena, and are marching to the presidential palace “surprisingly easily.” The rebels have been waging a war against the government of Mr. Idriss Deby for some years now and this time they managed to march into the capital and seem to be ready to topple the government.

Many had expected that the French army was going to step in to help Mr. Deby but it seems like the French are taking a wait-and-see position on this one. Mr. Deby accuses the government of Sudan of supporting the Chadian rebels. Sudan on the other hand accuses Chad of sponsoring the Darfuri rebels that have given Khartoum very bad press since 2000.

The African Union has condemned the attempted violent seizure of power but done nothing else. As the rebels marched towards the capital no country within the organisation offered any kind of support for Mr. Deby.

It is a bit surprising and disturbing at the same time that the government of Chad is being toppled so easily by a rebel movement. The march to the capital was well known and documented by the international media yet the government seemed to lack the capacity to take the fight to the rebels in the North East before they reached the capital. May be the government ought to be removed – because it has proven to be weak and unable to protect its people against these marauding desert rebels.

It is unclear what the rebels intend to do once they seize power. The success rate of such movements in forming governments is very low. Only Museveni, Kagame, Kabila, Zenawi and Charles Taylor have ever pulled this off before. All the other coups on the continent have been carried out by disgruntled government soldiers.

Meanwhile, as the men fight it out for power in this hot and dusty country, hundreds of thousands of people face crises on both sides of the Sudan-Chad border. The refugee camps are crowded, disease infested and unsafe. Aid workers have scaled down most of their operations due to the security situation leaving thousands without much hope for a better life.