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.
In 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.
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 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.”
A 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.
An 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.
- 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.