Category Archives: Seychelles

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.

September 29 – October 5, 2014

lesothoElections will be held two years early in Lesotho as the country heads to the polls to resolve its ongoing political crisis.

Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended Parliament in June to block a vote of no confidence after losing the support of his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing, leader of one of the main partners in his coalition government.

Now, it seems South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has helped negotiate a way out of the conflict with a plan unveiled last week.

According to the Maseru Facilitation Declaration, the rival factions have committed to the reopening of Parliament on October 17, when only election plans will be discussed nobody will sneakily try to oust Thabane. It will then be dissolved in early December for the parties to begin campaigning. And in late February next year, the country will vote.

But will this be enough?

As journalist and activist Levi Kabwato notes in this piece, it’s unlikely any party will earn the necessary 61 percent for an outright majority – which will leave the country with a fragile, hung Parliament all over again.

“The pitfall of this, therefore, is that in March or April 2015, Lesotho may actually be back where it is now, plunged deep in a continuation of the current political crisis. So, should Ramaphosa be patting himself on the back after all?”

Meanwhile, the country’s security situation was only vaguely addressed at the announcement. The failed-quasi-‘coup’ at the end of August was heralded by an army attack on police headquarters – and last Tuesday, just TWO DAYS before the elections announcement, there was another shoot-out between the army and the police.

How will conflict between the army and the police force be resolved? And while we’re on that, just who is in charge of the army – Thabane’s appointee Maaparankoe Mahao or former chief Tlali Kamoli, accused of escaping for the hills with looted weaponry after the non-coup?

Ramaphosa will reportedly meet with Kamoli in the coming week.


swazilandA woman made homeless during a series of forced evictions attempted public suicide in Swaziland last week. This after she and 15 other families were thrown off land where the government is building Biotechnology Park, a 158-hectare project partially funded by Taiwan, to serve as an innovation hub in the country – specifically for food production.

But according to the South African Litigation Centre, the evictions were illegal.

“On 8 September 2014 this interim order [to evict the residents] was made final and the residents immediately lodged an appeal to the order,” writes SALC lawyer Caroline James. “Appeals to eviction orders ordinarily stay the execution of the orders, and so this should have prohibited the government officials from evicting any person named in the eviction order.”

It didn’t.

The woman, whose family of ten is now homeless, was restrained before she could harm herself, reports the Times of Swaziland: “She was heard screaming: “Ngingamane ngife (it’s better to die).”


Southern Africa performed best in the newly released Ibrahim Index of African Governance – with Lesotho, South Africa, the Seychelles and Namibia all in the top ten (Zimbabwe drags us down considerably at #46).

The rankings are determined by four categories: Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development. And in fact it was SADC island state Mauritius that took the top spot, with a score of 81.7 out of 100.

botswanaAn interesting country to look at, though, is Botswana, coming it at #3.

It comes out tops specifically in the Safety & Rule of Law category and, as this piece notes, is “one of few African countries to transform its mineral wealth into political stability and widespread gains for its citizens”.

But as Africa analyst Liesl Louw-Vaudran writes in this piece (that’s *well* worth reading in its entirety), an investor-friendly image internationally does not necessarily translate to squeaky clean behaviour back home.

She writes that civil society organisations dispute the rankings “because the Botswana government was increasingly restricting basic freedoms of expression and was unwilling to engage civil society organisations in the country”.

“In the latest attack on the media in Botswana, the Sunday Standard editor Outsa Mokone was arrested last month and charged with sedition following an article in the newspaper about [president Ian] Khama’s alleged involvement in a car crash.”

The journalist who wrote that article is now living in exile after receiving information his life was in danger, telling the Daily Maverick‘s Simon Allison: “The intimidation of journalists hasn’t been in the form of physical harassment before, it has always been in the form of using the legal system to silence us. But now it has taken a new form. It’s now getting into physical threats, threats of harm. Right now we have an administration in Botswana that is inward-looking, intolerant to dissent and divergent views.”

As this editorial on Mmegi Online noted: “Lack of progressive legislations such as freedom of information law, declaration of assets and liabilities laws, State political party funding, and many other laws is a clear sign of deficiency in our democratic setup. Further, lack of accountability by those in power; recent attack on the independent press, and abuse of State resources by the ruling party at the disadvantage of their opponents is a worrying development.”

And all of this in the weeks leading up to the country’s elections at the end of the month? Interesting times.


tanzania

Tanzania approved a new draft constitution last week, passed without the input of opposition parties who are already voicing their dissent.

There’s some good and some bad to the new constitution. The gender gap will be narrowed, but birthright citizenship will also go out the window.

But according to Reuters, civil society and opposition politicians “say the version passed on Thursday is too limited and does not establish a federal system that many wanted”. They’ve called for nationwide protests.

According to VOA, “Critics say the government appears to be rushing to complete the new constitution. They contend the draft constitution is unlikely to lead to a governing document that represents the will of the people.”

And the local Guardian quoted a professor involved in the original drafting of the constitution as saying that the version passed last week was quite different to what they’d intended.

“I fear this passed draft constitution cannot lead to a good governing document that represents the will of the people… The proposed constitution is contrary to the targets that we set for ourselves, to get a good constitution.”


mozambiqueCivil society groups in Mozambique warned last week about the possibility of violence when the elections results are announced later this month.

The country goes to the polls on October 15. A SADC observer mission was deployed there last week and campaigning is well under way.

But civil society is warning police to be on guard and unbiased in the coming weeks, after supporters of the ruling party Frelimo attacked the motorcade of another party’s presidential candidate two weeks ago. When his supporters protested in turn, they were violently dispersed by police.

Meanwhile, leader of opposition party Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, was wooing potential voters last week with a speech that kind of terrifies: “When I try to serve you, along comes a little machine and provokes me. When I am President, nobody will provoke me and even if they do, nothing will happen to me because I will have all the laws and everything else under control.”

Meanwhile, Namibia announced last week that it will hold parliamentary and presidential elections on November 28. Namibians overseas will vote on November 14.


And Amal Alamuddin and George Clooney are reportedly/allegedly/gossipingly honeymooning in the Seychelles. If that’s not news, I don’t know what is.


August 11 – 17, 2014

zimbabweSouthern African leaders gathered in Victoria Falls this past weekend for the 34th SADC Summit – and chairing the organisation for the next 12 months will be Zimbabwe‘s president Robert Mugabe.

It’s an appointment that understandably makes some a little queasy. As this piece notes, “Those opposed to Mugabe’s Chairmanship argue that he still has serious legitimacy issues both locally and among the international community arising from the manner in which Zimbabwe conducted its last national elections… Some critics also wonder about the rationale of Zimbabwe hosting this expensive summit when the Government is grappling with serious financial difficulties and is said to be struggling to pay civil servants.”

There’s also concern about tensions between Mugabe and other presidents in the SADC block, particularly Botswana’s Ian Khama. But journalist Ray Ndlovu writes in this Business Day article that Mugabe has assured everyone that his real enemy is The West, as he says in this Mugabe-esque quote of note: “As we assume the leadership of the SADC this weekend, they are all our friends and we never want to make enemies. That is why you have not heard me wanting to criticise anyone publicly. If there are disagreements let us talk about it behind closed doors and not make it open. We don’t want to feed the enemy with the wrong information that we are divided; the enemy which is Britain and America.”

The summit generally revolves around political and security concerns in the region but, as the South African Institute of International Affairs‘ Catherine Grant Makokera notes in this article, those issues have been relatively quiet of late.

“Without the distraction of high politics, their focus will likely return to the regional integration agenda of the SADC,” writes Grant Makokera. “This is the nuts and bolts work of any regional organisation. It includes facilitating the movement of goods, services, people and capital among member states, so as to boost economic development of the group as a whole… Security is undeniably important, but if we are to make economic integration a reality, then facilitation should come first, with exceptions made for security reasons where necessary.”


mozambiqueMozambique‘s president promulgated an Amnesty Law last week that provides pretty broad amnesty for crimes against state security and military crimes committed since March 2012.

It’s all in the lead up to create a stable environment for the country’s October elections, in which one of the three presidential is Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the opposition party/rebel group Renamo, which has been clashing with government forces for months now. The amnesty follows a peace agreement reached between Renamo and the governing Frelimo party last Monday.

But according to this piece, the law is “worded broadly enough to cover not only armed rebellion, but also crimes of murder, arson, theft and illegal possession of firearms” and includes “policemen or soldiers who may have committed abuses during the recent fighting”. In effect, it also means nobody will be held to account for civilians killed in the recent clashes, meaning Dhlakama can come out of his months of hiding in the bush. He is insisting, however, that his life is still at risk.


seychellesLawmakers in the Seychelles have called for public opinions about homosexuality in what many are hoping is the first step towards decriminalising male same-sex relationships in the country. I say “male” specifically because lesbian relationships are already legal there – it’s an old sodomy law that discriminates particularly against homosexual men. According to Gay Star News, the Seychelles promised the UN way back in 2011 that it would get the ball rolling on decriminalising homosexual relationships.

zambiaZambian president Michael Sata’s wife Christine Kaseba has said her husband is fine as rumours continue to swirl over the state of his health. Sata hasn’t been seen in public since June, while his deputy Guy Scott represented the country at the US-Africa Leaders Summit two weeks ago. But Kaseba reportedly said “it is unfortunate that people are plotting for the Head of State to be in a coma when he is fine and moving the nation forward”, according to Zambian Watchdog. (Read this piece for some great background, if only for the cheeky #BringBackOurPresident hashtag.)

lesothoLesotho‘s under-20 football team forfeited its place in the African Youth Championship when it pulled out of a qualifier against Nigeria citing Ebola fears. This after Lesotho’s government enforced a travel ban on people returning from Ebola-affected countries. There have been 12 reported cases and four deaths in Nigeria from the virus. Countries all over the SADC region have been implementing travel rules to ensure the disease doesn’t spread.