Roundup: Kenya’s Presidential Debate

Kenya will hold presidential (and general) elections on March 4. For background on the elections, see herehere (.pdf), here, and here. For Ken Opalo’s forecast that Uhuru Kenyatta will win the first round, though not by enough to avoid a run-off, see here.

Yesterday, eight presidential aspirants met for the country’s first-ever presidential debate. The debate garnered massive attention – as the BBC tweeted, it was the “top trending topic on Twitter”  at one point yesterday.

Here is my roundup of coverage and reactions:

  • Daily Nation has a transcript. There was a livestream of the debate on YouTube, but I was unable to find a video of the event afterwards.
  • BBC: “[Frontrunners Uhuru] Kenyatta and [Raila] Odinga in First Kenya Presidential Debate.” From the article: “It is doubtful that the two-hour debate will significantly influence many voters as most Kenyans vote along ethnic lines.”
  • Standard Media focuses on the candidates’ remarks about ethnicity.
  • The Guardian: “Kenya Tunes in as Uhuru Kenyatta and Rail Odinga Promise Peaceful Elections.”
  • Reuters: “Raila Odinga, the frontrunner in Kenya’s presidential election, taunted his rival Uhuru Kenyatta in a debate on Monday, asking how he would be able to rule from the Hague, where Kenyatta goes on trial shortly on charges of crimes against humanity.”
  • AP: “Kenyatta insisted that he will be able to manage the task. ‘If the people of Kenya do decide to vote for me as their president, I will be able to handle the issue of clearing my name while ensuring the business of government continues and our manifesto and agenda for Kenya is implemented,’ Kenyatta said.”
  • Daily Nation: “Candidates Face Off Over Education, Health and Security.”
  • Nairobi Star: “Raila Dwells on Jobs, Shies Away from Land.”

Did you watch? What was your take?

Africa Blog Roundup: Kenya’s Elections, Nigeria’s Trains, DDR in South Sudan, and More

Ken Opalo: “Who Will Win the Kenyan Presidential Election?”

If the polls are right Uhuru Kenyatta still leads Raila Odinga by about 740,000 votes.  I estimate that Mr. Kenyatta will get 48.87% of the votes cast to Mr. Odinga’s 41.72%, which means that a run-off is almost inevitable. I don’t expect Mr. Kenyatta to hit the 50% mark since my model is slightly biased in his favor (especially coming from the Rift Valley turnout figures from 2007 that I use as a basis of estimating turnout in 2013).

Trains: Will Ross with a link to a BBC podcast segment on the Lagos-Kano Express. And Shelby Grossman with a photograph of a terminal under construction along a planned railway from Lagos to Cotonou.

Afendi Muteki: “The Oromo of Harerghe: On the Evolution of Urban Centers [in Ethiopia],” parts one and two.

Jairo Munive: “Disarmament, Demobilization And Reintegration In South Sudan: Feasible Under Current Conditions?”

Nasser Weddady on George Bush, Francois Hollande, and Mali.

Aaron Zelin compiles three new reports from Somalia’s Al Shabab.

I was thinking yesterday that my “Local Media Sources” list (in the right sidebar) was looking a bit thin, so I made some additions. Any suggestions for others to add?

Africa News Roundup: Kenyan Elections, Bamako Mutiny, Niger’s Tuaregs, and More

Human Rights Watch: “High Stakes: Political Violence and the 2013 Elections in Kenya.”

Reuters:

Malian government soldiers fought mutinous paratroops in the capital Bamako on Friday in a clash that threatened to undermine a French-led offensive against Islamist rebels which has moved up close to the Algerian border.

In the southern capital, local residents fled in panic as heavy gunfire echoed from the Djikoroni-Para paratrooper base on the Niger River and army units with armoured vehicles surrounded the camp. At least one person was killed, state media reported.

Smoke rose from the base, where mutinous members of the ‘red beret’ paratroop unit loyal to deposed Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was toppled in a coup last year, started firing with their weapons to protest attempts to redeploy them.

After several hours of firing, calm returned at the camp.

French troops took the airport at Tessalit, northern Mali yesterday, and a suicide bomber attacked a military checkpoint outside Gao.

RFI: “Mauritania’s Oil Minister Discusses Mali Conflict Fallout.”

Magharebia: “In Amenas Attack Magnifies Belmokhtar, AQIM Rift.”

An open letter (French) from a Nigerien Tuareg to President Mahamadou Issoufou:

Since the beginning of the conflict in northern Mali, Tuareg groups in Niger have stood out by their silence – this, in order to give a chance at Peace, and to save our country Niger, over which hangs the specter of an armed uprising which would feed into that of Mali, compromising all the efforts already agreed to by your government and ex-rebels. And this despite the inertia of authorities from the 5th, 6th, and 7th Republic who have not found ANY SOLUTION to the armed rebellion that ended in 2009, and so to the 4,000 ex-combatants still awaiting reintegration!

Magdi el Gizouli on the Sudanese preacher/activist Yusif al Koda and his interactions with Sudanese rebel movements.

Reuters: “Gunmen Kill Nine Polio Health Workers in [Kano,] Nigeria.”

Africa News Roundup: Human Rights Violations and Ethnic Tensions in Mali, Plus News on Nigeria, Sudan, etc.

Reports of human rights violations and ethnic tensions in Mali:

  • Amnesty International: “The Malian army has committed serious human rights breaches plus violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during the ongoing conflict against armed groups in the country, including extrajudicial executions of civilians.”
  • Human Rights Watch: “Malian government forces summarily executed at least 13 suspected Islamist supporters and forcibly disappeared five others from the garrison town of Sévaré and in Konna during January 2013…Islamist armed groups in Konna executed at least seven Malian soldiers, five of whom were wounded, and used children as soldiers in combat.”
  • AP: “Northerners living in the central and southern parts of Mali say they have faced discrimination and fear of reprisals by those who blame the country’s problems on anyone who looks Tuareg or Arab.”
  • IRIN: “The Dynamics of Inter-Communal Violence in Mali.”
  • IRIN: “Killings, Disappearances in Mali’s Climate of Suspicion.”

Yesterday, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono began an eight-day tour of the Middle East and Africa.

After a two-day stay in Monrovia, the delegation will fly to Abuja, Nigeria, for a state visit. Yudhoyono said he would utilize his bilateral meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to seek new economic opportunities.

[...]

From Nigeria, Yudhoyono will then fly to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on a working visit. He and his wife will also make a minor pilgrimage to Mecca and Madina.

The government will set up business meetings in both in Abuja and Jeddah that will feature top businesspeople in both countries.

“Indonesia has become one of the greatest investment destinations in the world. We want more real cooperation, particularly with the Middle-East,” Yudhoyono said.

Yudhoyono plans to conclude his trip by attending the 12th Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Cairo, Egypt on Feb. 6, despite unrest in some Egyptian cities.

Reuters: “Gunmen Kill Five North Nigeria Police, Ceasefire in Doubt.”

Magharebia: “Mauritania Arrests Salafists.”

Sudan Tribune:

At least 300 refugees from Sudan’s South Kordofan are crossing the border into Yida, South Sudan’s largest refugee camp, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said.

The influx of refugees, it says, calls for creation of new sites away from the “volatile” border area where Yida, currently hosting an estimated 61,000 Sudanese refugees, is located. The move, it added, seeks to ensure the safety of the refugees and maintain the civilian character of the settlement.

Al Jazeera: “Q&A: Kenya’s Upcoming Elections.”

What else is happening?

Somalia: Extending AMISOM’s Mandate

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has played a decisive role in the Somali government’s reconquest of territory in the southern part of the country from the rebel group Al Shabab.

AMISOM was created in January 2007. The United Nations Security Council authorized the African Union to deploy troops in Somalia in February 2007, and has periodically renewed that mandate. The most recent renewal came in November 2012, when “the council extended the AMISOM peacekeeping mission for four months, instead of the usual 12, to allow for a review of operations, including consideration of the request to lift the arms embargo and a call for permission to resume the export of stocks of charcoal.” The request to lift the embargo, which has been in place since 1992, comes from AMISOM. Introductory commentary on the charcoal issue can be found here.

The new mandate will expire around March 7, and regional leaders have begun calling for its extension. In December, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud released a joint statement calling for the mandate’s renewal. This week, Uganda’s Chief of Land Forces General Katumba Wamala (bio here) added his voice:

“Somalia is like a baby that is still suckling. She needs all the support from the rest of the world,” Katumba said recently in Somalia, where he is currently on the on-spot assesment of the peace operations. Uganda is the leading contributor to the military and police components of the mission.

The AMISOM mission is supported by mainly the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union. “The capacity for Somalia to stand on its own and survive as a country are not yet in place, irrespective of the efforts the world has been putting in,” Katumba said. He explained that in the last few years, tremendous steps have been taken in trying to revive the country, but more support is still needed.

I would be very surprised to see AMISOM leave Somalia in March. It will be interesting, though, to see what happens with the arms embargo issue and the charcoal issue.

A Look Ahead at the Sahel and the Horn in 2013

What will 2013 hold for the Sahel region and the Greater Horn of Africa?

For the Sahel, the year begins with intense concern about northern Mali and northern Nigeria. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC)’s resolution of December 20 greatly strengthens the prospect of an external military intervention in Mali, in the form of the “deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) for an initial period of one year.” The UN, the United States, and others are also placing pressure on Malian leaders to, in the UNSC’s words, hold “elections by April 2013 or as soon as technically possible.” Holding credible and inclusive elections, as well as retaking the north by force, may prove difficult to achieve in the time frame allotted. The anniversary of the northern rebellion’s launch, which will come on January 17, reminds us that Mali’s conflicts have lasted longer, and worsened further, than many initially expected – and may last for quite some time still.

In northern Nigeria, meanwhile, recent attacks by Boko Haram and battles between sect members and authorities suggest that instability in that region will continue in the new year. If last year’s trends are any indication, the combination of mistrust between the government and the sect, human rights violations on both sides, and the shifting nature of the sect’s tactics may make the conflict difficult to resolve either politically or militarily. 

One challenge for analysts and policymakers in 2013 will be to consider interconnections between crises and conflicts in the Sahel without falling into simplistic narratives depicting the region as an “arc of instability.” So for example while Niger is not Mali, what happens in Mali affects Niger, and vice versa. At the country level, I would urge analysts and policymakers to avoid suggesting that complex problems can be solved with variants of the “vote, then shoot” or “shoot, then vote” models. So, for example, would holding elections in Mali just three or four months from now really produce a legitimate and inclusive government? Or would elections turn out to be deeply flawed, and risk generating further discontent?

The crises in Mali and Nigeria, moreover, should not overshadow other challenges and important trends in the Sahel. In the category of challenges,  there is first and foremost the looming threat of renewed hunger. IRIN tells us, “Despite good rains across much of the Sahel this year, 1.4 million children are expected to be malnourished – up from one million in 2012, according to the 2013 Sahel regional strategy.” The numbers are grim, and the problem of food insecurity a long-term one – a challenge that requires more than just reactive, year-by-year responses. While men with guns battle for control of territory, drought and starvation will be claiming lives by the thousands.

Turning to the Greater Horn (for which I use quite a broad definition), four areas I’ll be watching are: (1) the efforts of the new government in southern Somalia to consolidate military and political control, with help from African and other partners; (2) the status of negotiations over border demarcation, security, oil, and other issues between Sudan and South Sudan (as well as the trajectory of rebel and protest movements within each country); (3) the shape of the ongoing political transition in Ethiopia in the wake of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death last year, and the shape of relations between the state and the Ethiopian Muslim community, which has been protesting alleged government interference in Muslim affairs since late 2011; and (4) the Kenyan elections of March 4. If one broad theme connects these cases, it is the interactions between transitions taking place in the realm of formal politics (elections, successions, agreements) and forms of dissent and contestation (rebellions, protests, ethnic violence) occurring alongside these transitions.

I have no predictions to offer beyond my warning about the risks in holding premature elections in Mali. I should also reiterate what I wrote yesterday about the shocking capacity of chance to affect larger trajectories, and the ways in which the effects of small actions can escalate beyond their authors’ intentions. None of us can tell what the future holds for the Sahel and the Horn, but I do think it will be an eventful year, including in ways we might never have guessed. Here’s hoping that one surprise will be less tragedy and bloodshed than expected, greater opportunities for peace, and successful transitions for countries from Senegal to Kenya.

Africa News Roundup: Nigerien Tuaregs, South Kordofan, Kenya and Somalia, and More

I rarely comment on North African affairs here, but the death of Morocco’s Sheikh Abdessalam Yassine will merit reflection on the meaning and trajectories of “Islamism” well beyond Morocco. His funeral was yesterday.

A recent CNN interview with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta included discussion of Mali. See also the audio and transcript of a recent NPR segment on intervention in Mali.

Deutsche Welle: “Niger’s Tuaregs Fear Spillover from Mali.”

Magharebia: “Mauritania Outlaws Coups d’Etat.”

Sudan Tribune:

The Sudanese army is dispatching heavy reinforcements to South Kordofan in order to defeat the rebellion and increase security in the border region, the country’s defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein has announced.

[...]

His visit and comments followed reports by the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army North (SPLM/A-N) that their forces defeated attempts on Monday by government forces to capture Daldoka village southeast of Kadugli and inflicted heavy losses on them.

This Day:

Former governor of Yobe State, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Thursday  declared that unless the activities of the Boko Haram was completely checkmated, there might not be any election in the entire six states of the North-east geo-political zone by 2015.

Similarly, the former governor of Kano State and chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) Rebuilding and Inter-Party Contact Committee, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, called on opposition politicians to ensure that the ongoing alliance talks between opposition political parties worked out this time as anything to the contrary would spell doom for the nation.
The two leaders spoke in Enugu, when the ANPP special rebuilding committee met with the party’s leaders and major stakeholders from the five states of the South-east zone in continuation of its nationwide consultation with members.

In a separate article, This Day reports that the Federal Government plans to send more troops to Borno State to fight Boko Haram.

Kidnappers have released the mother of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Charles Wachira: “After Somalia Intervention, Kenya Faces War Within.”

What else is happening?

Africa News Roundup: Burkina Faso Election Results, MUJWA Terrorist Designation, Eastleigh Bombing, and More

I wrote recently about elections in Burkina Faso and Somaliland. Here are legislative and municipal election results from Burkina Faso:

[President Blaise] Compaore’s CDP party secured 58 seats while allies in the broader coalition secured a further 22 seats in the December 2 vote, according to results for 102 constituencies announced late on Thursday.

The results for a further 25 seats have not yet been announced but Compaore’s majority has been secured despite the opposition UPC party winning 15 seats, a record for the opposition in the poor, land-locked nation.

I have not found full results for Somaliland, but preliminary results were released Thursday, causing protests in Hargeisa.

IRIN:

The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) 2009, also known as the Kampala Convention, came into force on 6 December; it is the world’s first legally binding instrument to cater specifically to people displaced within their own countries.

Adopted at an AU summit in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the Convention required ratification by 15 member countries before it could enter into force; Swaziland became the 15th country to do so on 12 November, joining Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. At least 37 AU members have also signed the Convention but have yet to ratify it.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on the shooting of a South Sudanese columnist, the detention of two Al Jazeera employees in Mali, and the convictions of three Cameroonian journalists.

Nigeria’s Guardian on recent attacks by Boko Haram, including the destruction of twenty-seven schools in Borno and Yobe States.

A bombing claimed three lives in Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya yesterday.

McClatchy: “Visit to Kismayo, Somalia, Shows al Shabab Militants Still Roam Countryside.”

Yesterday, the US State Department labeled the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), part of the Islamist coalition in northern Mali, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

What else is happening?

Africa Blog Roundup: Malaria, Northern Kenya, Obama and Africa, and More

Owen Barder:

There was bad news in research published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine about the effectiveness of what had seemed to be the best prospect for a malaria vaccine. The vaccine is known by the unsexy name of ‘RTS,S’.

The study of the phase III trials finds that in babies (aged 6-12 weeks) the vaccine only reduces malaria by less than a third.  This is disappointing because this is less than half the effectiveness that  had been suggested by the phase II clinical trials.

Karen Kaya and Jason Warner: “Turkey’s Love Affair with Somalia.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Uganda’s Withdrawal Threat.”

Hassan Kochore:

The face of northern Kenya…is changing, and one might expect people’s opinions and loyalty to the Kenyan state to shift accordingly. However, while the government has set out to socially and economically integrate the northern populations into Kenya, the narratives on the ground seem to be painting a contrasting picture.

Laine Strutton: “Italian Colonization in Africa.”

Roving Bandit on mental illness in South Sudan.

Lesley Anne Warner on US Africa policy and President Barack Obama’s second term. And via Amb. David Shinn, Tadias looks at US-Ethiopian relations in light of President Obama’s re-election.

Africa Is A Country: “10 Films to Watch Out For.”

Africa Blog Roundup: Ethiopia and Eritrea, Somalia, Uganda, and More

Aaron Maasho:

Ethiopia and Eritrea are still at each others’ throats. The two neighbours fought hammer and tongs in sun-baked trenches during a two-year war over a decade ago, before a peace deal ended their World War I-style conflict in 2000. Furious veRed Sea, UNrbal battles, however, have continued to this day.

Yet, amid the blistering rhetoric and scares over a return to war, analysts say the feuding rivals are reluctant to lock horns once again. Neighbouring South Sudan and some Ethiopian politicians are working on plans to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Reem Abbas: “Escaping Military Service and Kidnap, One Eritrean Woman’s Ordeal.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Al Shabaab’s Changing State in Somalia.”

Laura Mann:

On October 11ththe Rift Valley held its first ‘Nairobi Forum’. They invited Ken Menkhaus, Amal Ismail, Jabril Abdulla and Matt Bryden to discuss the post-election climate in Somalia. The former Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Affey, who was chairing the proceedings, joked: “We wanted to show Kenya what it means to be a democratic nation”.

All parties agreed that Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is a man who combines two clean hands with enormous street cred. There is reason for ‘cautious optimism’ even amidst the challenges ahead. Ken Menkhaus argued that it was not the election of this single remarkable man that was important, but the extensive support network behind him. Describing this network as a ‘constructive elite,’ Menkhaus clarified that this was not a mass uprising ‘Somali Spring’ but a civic mobilization of determined professionals tired of warlordism and ineffective foreign interventions alike. These individuals have been on the ground for the past 20 years, building hospitals, schools, universities and private businesses. They have spent the past 20 years “navigating the streets” as Ken Menkhaus put it. They have learnt how to negotiate deals with difficult parties, how to build trust across clans and most importantly, they know how to get things done. Jabril Abdulla added that these negotiating skills are important. The gradual expansion of the state will not just involve institutions, but people, some benign and some less palatable. Getting warlords to engage in politics is one of the key challenges.

Sociolingo flags UNECA’s 2012 report “Unleashing Africa’s Potential as a Pole of Global Growth.”

UN Dispatch: “UK, Ireland, and Denmark Suspend Aid to Uganda.”

Roving Bandit: “Cash Transfers in Northern Kenya.”

Shelby Grossman: “The Monotony of the Generator Guy’s Work.”

What are you reading today?