Category Archives: DRC

July 10 – 16, 2017: Magufuli marches on against mines

tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week left mining houses reeling after signing into law a set of bills that would radically alter the playing field.

The new laws allow the country to renegotiate all of its current mining contracts, increase royalties, and partially nationalise mining projects.

“The laws also deny the rights of mining companies to seek international arbitration and relief in the event of a dispute with the Government”, reports The West Australian.

And mining companies aren’t happy.

AngloGold Ashanti announced it would kick off arbitration proceedings to protect its assets in Tanzania — which include the company’s largest gold mine, Geita — claiming it had “no choice”.

Tanzania’s move is not without merit, though. Speaking to Business Day, CEO of the Tanzania-based mining house Kibo, Louis Coetzee, said that the investor-baiting legislation of the 1990s was out of date with an industry that had since matured, stoking “tensions between government and the industry”.

The new laws are the latest move in an ongoing battle between Magafuli and the industry.

In May, he fired his mining minister after unveiling a report claiming mining companies were understating the value of their exports and thus avoiding paying taxes.

Mineral sands exports have been banned since March.

And until things are “put in order”, Magufuli says new mining licenses will have to wait.

“We must benefit from our God-given minerals,” the president told a rally in his hometown, reports Reuters. “That is why we must safeguard our natural resource wealth to ensure we do not end up with empty mining pits.”


zambiaZambia‘s parliament last week approved and extended by three months a partial state of emergency, even as civil society warned it would be used to stifle dissent.

The emergency powers now granted are purportedly aimed at giving authorities more reach to investigate a string of fires that President Edgar Lungu has labelled as “sabotage” by “people who are hell-bent on just bringing chaos into the country”.

At a press conference last week, the police announced that they’ve now made 11 arrests in connection with a fire at Lusaka’s main City Market — and backed up Lungu’s claims.

“I wish to inform the nation that findings of the investigation taken so far by the team revealed the cause of fire was as a result of a deliberate ignition by unscrupulous people with premeditated intentions,” Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja said, according to Zambia’s Daily Mail.

“This means that the investigations have eliminated the possibility of an electrical fault or an accident as the cause of the inferno. Therefore, this incident is purely an act of arson.”

But Zambia’s Civil Society Constitution Agenda warned that the investigations may be compromised by the government’s claims, saying in a statement:

“We are left to wonder whether the investigative wings would to bold enough to give a report different from what has been already pronounced in public by government officials if they found that the cause of the fire at city market was not what these officials have said.”

Recommended Reading:

Zambia and the International Monetary Fund have long been haggling over a deal that could see the country granted a bailout package of billions. But Lungu seemed unconcerned at a recent press conference about how the IMF would react to the partial state of emergency. “If they want to go because of this, they can go,” he told reporters. In this piece, the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research argues that while Zambia may not need the IMF package, it definitely wants it — no matter what Lungu says.


drcThe opposition in the Democratic Republic of Congo expressed outrage last week after news broke that the country was unlikely to hold elections this year.

President Joseph Kabila’s term has long since expired, with the government citing funding constraints and voter registration delays as reasons for postponing last year’s vote.

After a series of violent protests, the state and opposition agreed to form a unity government to work towards holding the election this year instead.

It’s not gone well.

Kabila has never committed to a date for the vote, and last weekend the head of the country’s electoral commission warned that it would probably miss the 2017 deadline.

According to German agency DW, opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi reacted to the news by calling it “a declaration of war on the Congolese people”, while several United Nations’ Security Council members insisted the country “hold free, fair, and inclusive elections by the end of the year and without further delay”.

Said the US deputy ambassador to the UN, Michele Sison: “We are ready to take additional action to sanction those who stand in the way of DRC’s first democratic transition of power.”


botswanaAnd Botswana has been warned by China over an upcoming visit by the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan holy man is set to meet with President Ian Khama during his time in the country next month, when he will be attending a three-day conference in the capital Gaborone.

According to AFP, the government said in a statement that Botswana “will be extending the normal courtesies for visiting dignitaries” and that “His Excellency (President Khama) will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in Botswana”.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that the Dalai Lama wears “the cloak of religion” to engage in “anti-China, separatist activities”, reports Reuters: “We hope the relevant country can clearly recognise the essence of who the Dalai Lama is, earnestly respect China’s core concerns, and make the correct decision on this issue.”

June 19 – 25, 2017: Mozambique millions missing, while UN pushes for DRC-Kasai investigation

mozambiqueAn audit report released at the weekend into Mozambique‘s ongoing undisclosed debt saga revealed some $500 million that still can’t be sufficiently accounted for.

The audit by US firm Kroll was commissioned after it was revealed last year that Mozambique had secretly borrowed billions — a scandal that saw the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and numerous donors cut off aid to the country.

“The audit found that three firms linked to Mozambique’s defence and intelligence services had borrowed $2 billion to buy maritime surveillance equipment and vessels, in 2013 and 2014,” reports AFP.

But, according to Xinhua, Kroll said there still “gaps” in understanding “how exactly the $2 billion dollars were spent”.

“Until the inconsistencies are resolved, and satisfactory documentation is provided, at least 500 million dollars of expenditure of a potentially sensitive nature remains unaudited and unexplained,” the report said.

Mozambique has now launched a investigation into the missing millions.


drcThe United Nations will be sending a team of experts to investigate the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo‘s Kasai region, where some 3,300 have been killed since last August.

The resolution by the UN’s Human Rights Council came not without significant push-back from the DRC, which insisted any investigation that excluded Congolese authorities would be “unacceptable”.

Reports the New York Times, “European Union members had initially pushed for a tougher resolution calling for an international investigation on the scale of a commission of inquiry, but they dropped that proposal when it became clear that it lacked African support and Congolese ministers said they would not let its members into the country.”

“Do you want experts to go into a foreign country without reporting to the national authorities?” justice minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba told reporters in Geneva earlier in the week, according to Reuters. “How will they get visas? How will they get access to the countryside? The best way would be to go towards a solution that is acceptable for everyone… If you think you can do the investigation without us, go ahead.”

According to the resolution passed, the DRC will now take the lead on the investigation with the UN providing “technical and logistical support”.

“The victims – those who have been killed, maimed, subjected to terrible violence and forced from their homes – deserve justice,” said the UN’s human rights head Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein in a statement.


angolaA Portuguese court ruled last week that Angola‘s vice president Manuel Vicente must face charges of corruption and money laundering.

Vicente is accused of bribing Portuguese officials during his tenure as head of the state oil agency Sonangal from 1999 to 2012.

“The attorney-general’s office says that Mr Vicente paid $810,000 (nearly R10.5 million) in bribes to shut down corruption investigations that he was facing,” reports the BBC. “The alleged bribes were made to Portugal’s former public prosecutor Orlando Figueira, who also faces charges as part of ‘Operation Fizz’.”

The charges against Vicente, first laid in February, were described  at the time by Angola’s foreign ministry as “a serious attack” on the country, “likely to disrupt the good relations existing between the two states”.

Reports Reuters: “State-run media called the investigation ‘revenge by the former colonial master’ and ‘neo-colonialism’.”

Angolan authorities have reportedly refused to play ball since then, but last week’s ruling saw the charges declared valid with an order that all suspects should stand trial.


tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week said that schoolgirls who fall pregnant will not be allowed to continue their education after giving birth.

In a speech that has angered women’s rights NGOs, Magufuli said the girls should instead “join vocational training colleges or seek loans and become small entrepreneurs”, reported The Citizen.

“I give money for a student to study for free, and then she gets pregnant, gives birth and after that, returns to school. No, not under my mandate,” the president was quoted as saying by AFP.

He continued: “If we allow young mothers back into public schools we will one day have Standard One pupils rushing back home to breastfeed their babies. This way, we will destroy this nation.”

A Human Rights Watch report released last week found that over 15,000 girls drop out of Tanzanian schools every year due to pregnancy.


botswanaBotswana‘s former president Ketumile Masire died last week after a short stay in the intensive care unit of a Gaborone hospital.

Masire was elected into power in 1980, where he remained until he chose to step down in 1998.

Reuters called him “an instrumental figure in establishing the southern African country’s image as a stable African democracy”.

“He was Botswana’s longest serving president, and was credited with introducing Botswana’s two-term limit on ruling presidents and the automatic succession by the vice-president on the retirement of the sitting head of state,” reports HuffPost.

June 12 – 18, 2017: Murder mystery in Lesotho while MPs suspended in Zambia

lesothoThomas Thabane was on Friday inaugurated as Lesotho‘s prime minister, just two days after his estranged wife was murdered.

The police have remained largely mum on Lipolelo Thabane’s death, confirming only that a 58-year-old woman was shot and killed while driving home with a friend.

“While it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, there are suspicions that the death was politically motivated,” writes Global Risk Insights.

In an environment of political tension and little real information, rumours have flourished. Competing conspiracy theories blame either Thabane’s enemies – or the Thabane camp itself.

In early 2015, during Thabane’s first go-round as PM, a court ruled that First Lady privileges should be bestowed on Lipolelo, and not Thabane’s young, new, customary wife.

“While PM Thabane’s opponents in the outgoing government and military may be behind the murder, Lipolelo Thabane may have also been killed by allies of the Prime Minister in order to tie up any loose ends,” writes Global Risk Insights. “An additional theory is that the incident was a random murder, yet the victim and timing raises considerable suspicions.”

According to African Independent, Thabane marked a moment’s silence for his wife at the inauguration, insisting on the need for police reform “to restore peace and stability in this country”.

After a quasi-coup in 2014, two collapsed coalition governments and three elections in five years, it was this stability that Thabane emphasised in his speech.

“One looks forward to a stable, normal and internationally accepted five-year cycle between elections,” he said, according to News24.


zambiaZambia last week suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by President Edgar Lungu earlier this year.

Reuters reports that the parliamentarians from the United Party for National Development (UPND) have been suspended for 30 days – without pay.

Speaker Patrick Matibini challenged the MPs – who have contested Lungu’s electoral win last year in court – to “resign on moral grounds if you do not recognize that there is a legitimately elected government”, slamming what he called their “irrational and morally unjustified behaviour”.

Matibini has also asked the police to investigate UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema for his “disparaging and contemptuous remarks”, according to Zambia Reports.

Hichilema is already behind bars and has been for months, facing a treason charge after a traffic altercation with Lungu in May.

Political analyst Macdonald Chipenzi told German agency Deutsche Welle there was “no law currently in place that compels or mandates members of parliament to be in the house at the point when the presidential speech is being delivered”.

“This is a decision meant to appease the appointing authority,” he added.

Numerous groups have decried the Zambian government’s increasingly authoritarian behaviour, with a coalition of churches last week releasing a statement calling the country a “dictatorship”.

The government has reacted indifferently.

“What crisis?” Lungu reportedly said Friday. “There is no crisis.”


drcOver 900 inmates escaped last week after gunmen attacked a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Deutsche Welle reports that only 30 of the prisoners remain, with 11 people – including eight security officers – killed in the gunfight.

Kangwayi Prison is in North Kivu, a region troubled by violence. Many of the escapees were fighters from the Allied Democratic Forced rebel group, which has terrorised the area.

“According to the UN, the ADF has engaged in numerous violations of human rights law including recruitment of child soldiers, abduction, murder, maiming and rape,” reports Deutsche Welle. “More than 60,000 people have been displaced due to fighting and looting.”

This is just the latest in a string of jailbreaks in the country.

According to Reuters, 4000 prisoners escaped a high-security prison in the capital Kinshasa last month.


mozambiqueAnd Mozambique is under fire after spending nearly $4 million on luxury cars for its lawmakers.

According to the BBC, social media was on fire last week over the 18 Mercedes-Benz cars which went to members – both ruling and opposition – of the the governing body of the country’s parliament.

This when the country is very much facing the possibility of a liquidity crisis over its public debt, says the Economist Intelligence Unit.

In a response that will sound familiar to South Africans, the finance ministry’s national budget director Rogerio Nkomo said the lawmakers were “entitled” to the cars.

May 29 – June 4, 2017: Lesotho votes and Dos Santos returns

lesothoFor the third time in five years, Lesotho headed to the polls on Saturday to pick a new government after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s ruling coalition collapsed.

His chief rival, former Prime Minister Tom Thabane, had no reservations about the outcome.

“We are going to win this election, if it is free and fair,” he told AFP.

Even so, Thabane’s likely to rely on the same web of delicate alliances that brought Mosisili to power in 2015 — despite his Democratic Congress winning fewer seats than Thabane’s All Basotho Congress.

“A coalition is the most likely outcome, but it is unlikely to be a successful one,” analyst Charles Fogelman told AFP. “Both of the previous coalitions have collapsed under the weight of succession and power battles, and it is hard to imagine future coalitions not doing the same.”

The election marks the latest event in the rollercoaster ride that is Lesotho politics, set off by a 2014 army-led quasi-coup that sent then-Prime Minister Thabane fleeing across the border into South Africa.

How the army will react to the results of Saturday’s poll is anybody’s guess.

“The prospect of a Thabane victory is extremely worrying to partisan pro-Mosisili army officers who have several skeletons in the cupboard which could come clattering out,” writes Peter Fabricius for the Institute for Security Studies.

On election day, a handful of soldiers loitered outside polling stations in the capital Maseru, fully armed.

“Why would there be soldiers in a peaceful exercise of democratic rights? There has not been a security concern,” an opposition spokesman told VOA. “Why are they fully armed? So the first impression is that they are there to intimidate.”


drcThe Democratic Republic of Congo‘s government last week okayed the use of an experimental Ebola vaccine as it fights its eighth outbreak of the disease.

The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV and, reports Nature, it was developed using a strain of the virus that hit the country in 1995: “This is nearly identical to the strain circulating in the country now. The protein triggers a person’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight the virus.”

If deployed, the plan would be to vaccinate the high-risk healthcare workers dealing with suspected Ebola cases.

But the same isolation of the affected community that has in the past helped contain the country’s Ebola scares provides quite an obstacle to actually deploying the vaccine. The affected region doesn’t have tarred roads or electricity — quite the hurdle for a vaccine that needs to be stored at -80°C.

But it’s a stumbling block that may never need be overcome. At least for now.

Health minister Olly Ilunga Kalenga said last week the outbreak was now under control, with no new cases reported in 21 days. The last confirmed case was reported on May 11 — the same day the World Health Organisation was first notified of the outbreak. Says the latest WHO report:

“As of 1 June, 72 contacts remain under follow up for signs and symptoms of Ebola. Modelling suggests the risk of further cases is currently low but not negligible, and decreases with each day without new confirmed/probable cases.”

Recommended Reading: 
This fascinating piece from Science on the researchers searching for the origins of the Ebola virus — and where hides between outbreaks: “The virus’s natural history is a mystery, says virologist Vincent Munster, sitting outside his tent in the darkening jungle. ‘We know everything about its replication cycle but fricking nothing about where it comes from and how it causes outbreaks.'”


angolaAngola‘s president Jose Eduardo Dos Santos last week returned home after nearly a month abroad, an absence that sparked reports of his suffering stroke or dying, while his daughter Isabel took furiously to social media insisting he was very much alive.

The government has confirmed, however, that the 74-year-old president was in fact seeking medical treatment while in Spain.

“You know that there are moments in everyone’s lives when we don’t feel well. But he is fine. He is in Spain but when he is better he will return,” foreign minister Georges Chikoti told RFI. “President Dos Santos has regular checkups in Spain so it is perfectly normal for him to be there.”


zimbabweAnd Robert Mugabe kicked off his election campaign last week, wooing youth at a soccer stadium south of Harare one year before Zimbabwe heads to the polls.

“Two hundred buses and trucks have been laid on to bring supporters to the venue,” reported News24. “Youths, women and war veterans are understood to have been invited.”

To say he received a warm reception would be something of an understatement.

Addressing the crowd of thousands, the leader of ZANU-PF’s youth wing Kudzanayi Chipanga called Mugabe an “angel” who was “representing God here on Earth”.

“Mugabe, his wife Grace and Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa nodded in disbelief,” reported NewsDay.

Chipanga continued: “I promise you, people, that when we go to heaven don’t be surprised to see Robert Gabriel Mugabe standing beside God vetting people into heaven.”


May 22 – 28: On Maimanes and mining ministers

zambiaThe ongoing concerns around Zambia‘s democratic integrity forced their way into South African headlines last week when Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane was refused entry to the country to attend the treason trial of his Zambian counterpart.

Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), faces treason charges after his motorcade allegedly failed to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s as the two headed to an event last month.

There’s no love lost between Hichilema and Lungu. The pair faced off in a hotly contested and sometimes violent presidential race last year. Hichilema later unsuccessfully challenged Lungu’s win in the courts.

With bail not an option for prisoners charged with treason, Hichilema has now been in jail for over 40 days, his case postponed several times over.

Never one to waste a PR opportunity, Maimane embraced continental brotherhood just in time for Africa Day, saying in a statement: “We will stand up for democracy and the rule of law on the African continent and we will be there in person to show our support for Mr Hichilema. We also call on the Zambian government to drop these trumped up charges against the Leader of the Opposition, and release him from prison.”

But Maimane never made it off the plane and back home Zambia’s High Commissioner defended the incident, saying Maimane had threatened to “pressure our courts of law in Zambia”.

Meanwhile, back in Zambia, Hichilema’s trial was once again postponed. He’ll be back in court June 12.


tanzaniaTanzania‘s president John Magufuli last week fired his mining minister after unveiling a report claiming mining company’s were understating the value of their exports and thus avoiding paying taxes.

AFP reports that both Sospeter Muhongo, who is “a friend and ally of the president”, and Dominic Rwekaza, head of the country’s minerals audit agency, were axed.

Magufuli said of the fired Muhongo: “The minister is my friend and I like him very much but I will not forgive him for this.”

“The probe team has also recommended that the government reinforces the ban on mineral sand exports until the right royalties are paid to the State, while investigations and legal steps are taken against employees involved,” reported Tanzania Daily News.

Magufuli banned mineral sands exports in March.

One company particularly hurt by the report is Canadian mining firm Acacia — its stocks dropped some 14 percent on the London Stock Exchange last week, reports CNBC, and it’s losing a reported $1 million a day because of the ban.

The company refutes the report’s findings, saying in a statement of the claim that two of their Tanzanian gold mines produce some 1.5 million oz of gold annually:

“This would mean they are the two largest gold producers in the world; that Acacia is the world’s third largest gold producer, and that Acacia produces more gold from just three mines than companies like AngloGold Ashanti produce from 19 mines, Goldcorp from 11 mines, and Kinross from its nine mines… In conclusion, we do not understand the findings of the Committee and believe that they contain significant discrepancies compared to all previous data analysed.”


drcA study released last week by the Norwegian Refugee Council found that over 900,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo fled their homes last year because of conflict — a figure that topped displacement numbers in both Syria and Iraq.

Alexandra Black from the NRC’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) told RFI that researchers were surprised by the results: “We’ve been monitoring Syria, Iraq and Yemen and they’ve been consistently having very high numbers of internal displacements every year. So when the DRC came up, we were taken by surprise and, at the same time, we aren’t really surprised because this is really a protracted crisis, one that’s been largely ignored, the underlined drivers have not been addressed.”

To blame are ongoing conflicts in North and South Kivu, and a new outbreak of violence in the Kasai provinces that in just the last few months has sent 20,000 refugees across the border into Angola.

In fact, sub-Saharan Africa as a whole was worse off than the Middle East. Says the report: “Of the 6.9 million new internal displacements by conflict in 2016, 2.6 million took place in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 2.1 million in the Middle East and North Africa.”

You can read the full report here.


lesothoAnd finally SADC has warned Lesotho that it will take action if anyone fails to accept the results of the upcoming vote.

The country will go to the polls for the third time in five years this Saturday after a bumpy few years set off by an alleged coup attempt in 2014.

The latest round of polling comes after the ruling coalition collapsed and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili called for an early election to dodge a no-confidence vote in parliament.

“The stakes are very high in these elections… it will be the most competitive election ever in my view,” political scientist Dr Motlamelle Kapa told the SABC.

Mosisili’s Democratic Congress party took its time but has finally signed a pledge to accept the outcome of the June 3 vote. The army has likewise assured everybody its not planning another coup if the election doesn’t go Mosisili’s way, reports the Lesotho Times.

Launching the SADC observer mission last week, Tanzanian foreign minister Augustine Mahiga said, “After three elections in five years, the fatigued voters deserve a different and durable outcome.”


May 15 – 21: Ebola in the DRC… again

drcRepresentatives from the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week traveled to a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to assess an ebola outbreak that has so far killed three people.

Twenty-one suspected cases of the disease had been identified as of May 16 after a 45-year-old man caught a taxi to a hospital — but was dead on arrival.

“The driver also fell ill and later died,” the WHO reported. “A third person who cared for the first case also became ill and has subsequently died.”

The outbreak made world news earlier this month when first reported, no doubt fuelled by memories of the 2014 West Africa epidemic that left thousands dead.

But this is not the DRC’s first rumble with the disease. Try eighth.

According to the WHO, ebola outbreaks in the DRC were recorded in the seventies, nineties, late 2000s and 2014. The deadliest of these was the 1976 outbreak of what was then called ‘Zaire virus’, killing some 280 people. Affected areas in the most recent outbreak in 2014 — which was unrelated to the epidemic ravaging West Africa at the time — were quickly quarantined and deaths limited to 49.

AFP reports that doctors are hoping the remoteness of the most recent cases in a northern province of the DRC called Bas-Uele “could help limit [the disease’s] spread”.


zambiaZambian opposition politician Hakainde Hichilema was last week acquitted of insulting police officers when he was arrested at his home last month following an allegedly treasonous traffic altercation with President Edgar Lungu.

According to Zambia’s Daily Mail, Magistrate Greenwell Malumani slammed the prosecution and police for failing to provide any evidence of Hakainde’s insulting behaviour:

“Magistrate Malumani said the behaviour of the police in the matter was undesirable, adding that from the submissions made, it is clear that no investigations were conducted despite the country having a fully-fledged legal system. He said that the evidence showed that all the four state witnesses exhibited serious contradictions and lack of professionalism, stating that their aim was to destroy evidence in the matter.”

The treason charges, however, remain and Hichilema will be back in court this week when Magistrate David Samusamba will decide whether to dismiss the case — or refer it to the High Court.

The opposition leader was arrested last month after his motorcade allegedly failed to give way to President Lungu’s as they both headed to the same event.


Angola‘s first daughter Isabel dos Santos took to Instagram last week to shut down the #fakenews rumours surrounding the health of her father, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

“Someone has gone so low as to invent information about the death of a man in order to create confusion and turmoil in Angolan politics,” the state-owned oil company chair and living Ivanka warning sticker wrote.

“Opportunists and creators of false news,” she added — before hashtagging Rafael Marques, a celebrated investigative journalist.

This after Marques reported on his independent Maka Angola site last week that the president — who has been out of the country since the beginning of May — suffered a stroke.

Now, opposition parties are demanding answers.

“The health of the President is a matter of concern to everyone, but the problem is that everything about the health of the President is top secret,” UNITA MP Raul Danda told Reuters.

“There are many rumours about the health of the president and there is a need to officially provide clarification about what is happening,” added the party’s Alcides Sakala, reported Bloomberg. “While this is a society that is very fertile when it comes to rumours, there is no official information available about the president’s health.”


Recommended Reading:

  • The ruling MPLA party is expected to win the upcoming August vote in Angola, but President Dos Santos has indicated he will be stepping down. Get to know his successor and current defence minister Joao Lourenço in this Africa Report piece: “Lourenço is set to inherit a tangled web of patronage and a failing economy, and that leaves him little capacity to quench powerful thirsts.”
  • Lesotho‘s third election in five years is just weeks away after yet another coalition collapsed under the sheer weight of political party acronyms. “While party rallies still attract large crowds at weekends ahead of the vote, most Basotho voters do not believe that politics at the national level will solve their everyday problems. So where does Lesotho go from here? What can Basotho do?” asks this Daily Maverick read.
  • With an audit report released and the IMF seemingly appeased, Mozambique appears to have finally pulled itself from the muck and mire of its undisclosed debt scandal — politically speaking that is. This IRIN article looks at how ordinary Mozambicans were affected by the fallout: “The once-stable local currency, the meticais, crashed. Steep price rises quickly followed, while interest rates tripled in order to brace the currency as it threatened to go into freefall, further squeezing economic growth. In March 2017, the inflation rate was 21.57 percent.”

April 3 – 9, 2017: And we’re back!

It’s been a good 2.5 years since I put out the last SADC Wrap, and the mound of southern African news that has piled up in my inbox is… daunting. 

Deep breath, and here we go.

drcIn our top story this week, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila lobbed a solid FU at the opposition last week when he appointed the wrong man prime minister in the country’s unity government.

Now, the last time I wrote about Kabila was September 2014, when an opposition politician was jailed for making speeches against the president’s ambitions to run for an unconstitutional third term.

What’s happened since then? The government put off the scheduled 2016 elections citing funding issues and major delays in voter registration. Understandably, the opposition felt otherwise about this. Strikes turned violent. People died. But come the end of 2016, Kabila was still sitting pretty as president.

Then, on the last day of the year, the two sides came to an agreement: Kabila would form a unity government with the opposition, and together they would work towards ensuring elections were held before the end of 2017.

And then the opposition leader died.

It was nothing nefarious. Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UPSD), was 84 years old and in Belgium at the time. But “a power struggle erupted over who should succeed him”, reported the New York Times — Tshisekedi’s son Felix, or someone else?

Enter Kabila, who decided he would not accept Felix Tshisekedi alone as the opposition coalition’s candidate for Prime Minister. No: they would have to submit three names and he would make his pick.

That announcement came Friday. But instead of appointing Tshisekedi Junior, Kabila chose Bruno Tshibala — a former UPSD member pushed from the party for opposing Tshisekedi as natural successor to his father. Analysts say this is likely to only divide the opposition further.

Reports the Times:

Israel Mutala, a political analyst, said Mr Tshibala’s appointment “risks exacerbating” the political crisis and was likely to increase divisions within the opposition. Mr Kabila’s move “gave power to a fringe minority” of the opposition, Mr Mutala said, and seemed to undermine the spirit of the agreement reached in December, the details of which have still not been fully carried out.

And this from Al Jazeera:

Tshisekedi’s son, Felix, who replaced his father as president of the Rassemblement, said Kabila violated the deal by not naming a candidate of the alliance’s choosing.

“We continue to demand the application of the December 31, 2016 accord,” he told Reuters news agency. “The nomination of Bruno Tshibala is a departure from the accord.”

Read more on this: 

This is a dense and ongoing story of an opposition rent by factional battles, with Kabila seemingly cast in the role of Grand Puppet Master. I highly recommend this Crisis Group brief if you want a deeper understanding of the situation. It’s a long one, but contains some great insights into how Kabila is somehow still in power.

This is also a good read on the man who should have been king: Tshisekedi Junior. It certainly highlights why some in the opposition would have stood against him. Case in point: “At 53, the younger Tshisekedi has spent most of his life in Belgium. He has never held public office (though he was elected to parliament in 2011 and boycotted his seat at the direction of his father) and only moved into a leadership role in the UDPS as its national secretary for external relations in 2008. For most of his professional life, he toiled in relative obscurity within the party’s European diaspora organizations.”

(Note that both pieces are slightly dated as they were written before Tshibala was named Prime Minister.)


seychelles

Seychelles found itself at the centre of the ongoing Trump-Russia love-in after a Washington Post report last week that said (and I’m just going to copy-paste this paragraph straight from the story because, man, is it convoluted) “the United Arab Emirates arranged a secret meeting in January between Blackwater founder Erik Prince and a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, according to US, European and Arab officials”.

The site of this meeting? Seychelles.

Now, I’m not going to go into too much depth over this because it’s more a US-Russia story than it is an African story, but I will leave you with this incredible tidbit about Seychelles from the country’s own foreign affairs minister:

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all,” said Barry Faure, the Seychelles secretary of state for foreign affairs. “The Seychelles is the kind of place where you can have a good time away from the eyes of the media. That’s even printed in our tourism marketing. But I guess this time you smelled something.”


malawiA study on abortion in Malawi revealed an estimated 141,000 abortions were performed in the country in 2015. This despite it being illegal to have an abortion in Malawi unless the mother’s life is in danger.

Clearly, that law isn’t working. Says co-author Dr Chisale Mhango of the University of Malawi’s College of Medicine: “Restrictive abortion laws do not stop abortion from occurring, they just drive it underground, forcing women to resort to clandestine procedures, which are often unsafe.”

You can read the Guttmacher Institute’s study here, but I’ll leave you with some choice findings:

  • In Malawi in 2015, 39 percent of pregnancies ended in planned births, 30 percent in unplanned births, 16 percent in abortion and 15 percent in miscarriages.
  • Out of the estimated 141,000 abortions performed in Malawi in 2015, approximately 60 percent resulted in complications that required medical treatment in a health facility.
  • An estimated one-third of the women who experienced complications from an abortion did not receive the medical treatment they needed.

mozambiqueAn ongoing audit into Mozambique‘s massive undisclosed debt — a scandal that saw the International Monetary Fund cut off aid to the country — has now come knocking at the door of former president Armando Guebuza.

According to Bloomberg, the attorney general wrote to the country’s banks requesting account information about Guebuza and 17 other people, though what that means for the former statesman remains unclear.

Guebuza ruled Mozambique from 2005 to 2015, when his former finance minister Filipe Nyusi succeeded him as the successful Frelimo candidate in the country’s general election.


Recommended reading:

  • This story from Madagascar on a subsistence farmer who was denied a visa to travel to the UK, where he planned to speak at the Rio Tinto AGM to expose the “devastating impact” the company’s mines have had on on his community.
  • This Buzzfeed piece from Tanzania on the country’s LGBT community, which for the last year has faced a troubling crackdown. Health workers fear this could reverse the country’s fight against HIV as key populations go to ground. (Don’t worry. It’s not a listicle.)
  • And this New York Times story out of both Namibia and Botswana, where former US president George Bush the Younger traveled last week to tout the successes of his Aids relief programme, Pepfar — and his fight to preserve the “best part of his legacy” at a time when Trump is going in deep with the budget cutting shears.