Africa News Roundup: Kenya, South Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, and More

VOA:

The runner-up in Kenya’s presidential election is filing a petition with the Supreme Court Saturday challenging the results.  The party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga says it will present to the court evidence of electoral fraud. Odinga’s CORD alliance has refused to accept the first-round victory of Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.

Results released last week by the country’s electoral commission, the IEBC, declared Mr. Kenyatta had won 50.07 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a run-off with Mr. Odinga.

Reuters: “After a Long Fight for Freedom, South Sudan Cracks Down on Dissent.”

Bloomberg:

South Sudan’s government said it signed an agreement with Ethiopia and Djibouti that may enable the East African nation to export oil by truck from July, while a study on a pipeline linking the three countries is completed.

An accord signed on March 12 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, envisages crude being exported via Djibouti’s Red Sea port of Douraleh, South Sudan Deputy Petroleum Minister Elizabeth James Bol said in an interview today. Douraleh is 1,469 kilometers (913 miles) northeast of Juba, the South Sudanese capital.

[...]

South Sudan is considering building two pipelines, one via Ethiopia and another across Kenya to the port of Lamu, as an alternative to the conduit that runs through neighboring Sudan.

Magharebia reports on Morocco’s diplomatic outreach to Mauritania, which is partly motivated by concern over the crisis in Mali.

IRIN: “Call to End Neglect of Emergency Education in Mali.”

Bloomberg: “Senegal Seeks to Become West Africa Hub for Islamic Finance.”

Al Jazeera: “Thousands Protest Unemployment in Algeria.”

VOA: “Development Improves in Ethiopia, But Just Slightly.”

The Guardian (Nigeria): “Northern Christians, Emir [of Anka, in Zamfara State] Oppose Amnesty for Boko Haram.” The titular Christians are the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF).

Osun Defender:

Two top leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Borno State were yesterday assassinated by gunmen suspected to be operatives of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The slayings came less than one week after the officials participated in welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan during his tour of the troubled state.
The victims were Usman Gula (who was the PDP’s vice chairman for Southern Borno), and Hajia Gamboa, who served as the party’s women’s leader for Shehuri ward in Maiduguri.

What else is happening?

Kenyan Elections Open Thread

Kenyans are voting today in much-anticipated presidential elections. The BBC has profiles of the eight candidates, including front-runners Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. The BBC also has a Q&A on the elections. Reuters has an interactive timeline covering the period from the 2007 elections to February 2013. IRIN has a page for the elections as well. International Crisis Group’s report on the elections is here (.pdf). Finally, VOA is providing live updates here.

Please consider this an open thread for Kenya-related news. What are you hearing/reading/seeing? Let us know.

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?

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Illness and Potential Political Changes in the Greater Horn

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi missed an African Union summit this past weekend, rumors spread that he was ill. News agencies reported yesterday that Meles was in “critical condition” in Brussels. By late in the day the Ethiopian government had announced that Meles was “in good condition.” Under Article 75 of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution (.pdf), Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of Foreign Affairs) Haile-Mariam Desalegne will act on the Prime Minister’s behalf in his absence.

Meles, a former rebel leader who took power in 1991, has previously stated his desire to step down when his current term ends in 2015. If Meles leaves office, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front will almost certainly retain power, but Meles’ absence would represent a significant political change for Ethiopia.

Indeed, Meles’ illness potentially foreshadows a coming period of political change (specifically the installation of new heads of state) for several countries in the greater Horn of Africa. Change could occur in several ways.

First, there is retirement. Meles is not the only leader in the region who has said he will step down in 2015 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir made the same promise during a small wave of protests in early 2011, and Djibouti’s President Ismael Guellah has stated that he will step down in 2016. Some observers have doubted the sincerity of these pledges, but Meles in particular sometimes seems fatigued and ready to give up the job, an appearance that this illness underscores.

Elections will bring changes in leadership elsewhere in the region. Many observers expect Somalia’s ongoing political transition, which includes presidential elections next month, to produce a government fairly similar in personnel to the current Transitional Federal Government. But in Kenya, presidential elections set to take place in 2013 must produce a new head of state. President Mwai Kibaki, who has reached the limit of two five-year terms, cannot run again, leaving the field open to a number of major politicians, including current Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Other transitions, as Meles’ case reminds us, could come about because of sudden illness or death, a grim possibility but one that must be mentioned. These leaders are not old: indeed, all of them (not counting Kibaki) are short of seventy – Meles was born in 1955, Bashir in 1944, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in 1951, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 1964, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki in 1946, Djibouti’s President Ismail Guellah in 1947, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni around 1944. Yet four of them have been in power for over nineteen years (Museveni came to power in 1986, Bashir in 1989, Meles in 1991, and Isaias in 1993). The high stress of being head of state seems to accelerate aging in some leaders. There remain only six African leaders who have been in office longer than Museveni.

Finally, no leader in the region has faced a monumental threat from mass protests, but significant anti-regime protests have occurred in the last two years in Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. If nothing else, such protests add to the pressures these heads of state face in other areas.

It is possible, of course, that in three or four years only Kenya, out of all the countries in the greater Horn, will have new leadership. But a combination of factors could produce transitions in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, potentially shaking up, within a relatively short period of time, what has long been a fairly stable roster of leaders.

Kenya: Amid Terrorist Attacks, Offensive Against al Shabab Will Continue

On Sunday, “masked assailants launched simultaneous gun and grenade raids on two churches in…Garissa, the north Kenya town which has been used as a base for operations against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in Somalia.”

IRIN, meanwhile, reports on how Mombasa, Kenya is grappling with a recent spate of terrorist attacks:

Following three grenade attacks in recent months and a US “terror” alert, residents of the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa are bracing themselves for the possibility of yet more violence; local leaders are working towards better disaster preparedness and improvements in the emergency services.

Three people lost their lives after a grenade attack on a bar in the Mshomoroni area of Mombasa on the night of 24 June, a day after the US issued a warning of an imminent attack. One person was killed and several injured in a suspected grenade attack on 15 May at a Mombasa sports bar; two grenade attacks in the city on 31 March left at least 15 injured. There have also been a spate of attacks in the capital, Nairobi, and northeastern areas of the country since Kenya crossed into southern Somalia in October 2011 to help stamp out the radical Islamist group, Al Shabab.

Kenyan leaders, however, say that the offensive in Somalia will continue. Speaking in Garissa,

Prime Minister Raila Odinga…ruled out pulling Kenyan troops from Somalia, saying it will be tantamount to surrendering to terrorism.
He made it clear that Kenyan troops will not leave Somalia until the country is liberated and pacified, noting Kenya will not be at peace until Somalia which has not known peace for two decades realizes peace.
“We want Somalia to be peaceful so that the 500,000 Somali refugees being hosted in Dadaab refugee camp can go back to their country to relieve Kenya of the burden of hosting them,” he said.
“Surrender is therefore not an option for us because if we leave Somalia, anarchy will set in which will spill over the borders.”

Kenyan forces’ next target in Somalia is the port city and al Shabab stronghold Kismayo, which they hope to take by August.

Conflict between Sudan and South Sudan Worries Kenya

Sudan and South Sudan are caught in a cycle that involves frustrating and so far largely fruitless talks over oil revenue sharing and border demarcation, alternating (or sometimes overlapping) with periods of severe tension and even cross-border clashes. As of today, talks between the two governments in neighboring Ethiopia are on hold. The situation is eliciting real concern from other neighbors as well.

A Southern Sudanese delegation visited Kenya this week. Kenyan leaders expressed their willingness to help broker a diplomatic solution between the two Sudans. While Kenyan involvement could help the two parties break the deadlock, Kenyan authorities did not say what form their participation might take. Moreover, Sudan may have concerns about Kenya’s neutrality, given the various links between Kenya and South Sudan, including plans to build a pipeline that would cut Sudan’s share of profits from Southern Sudanese oil.

Whatever the visit brings in the future, for the present it underscores the high stakes of the Sudanese crisis not just for the Sudans, but for the region. The Southern Sudanese attempted to reassure Kenyan leaders that Juba and Khartoum will not return to war, but Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga expressed nervousness about the situation:

The PM said that another full scale war between Juba and Khartoum would pose immense security and humanitarian challenges to the region which is already struggling to contain a devastating drought, refugee problems and islamist insurgents in Somalia.

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The PM expressed worries that positions appeared to be hardening between the two countries.

Odinga clearly has Somalia – where Kenyan forces have been deployed since October, fighting the rebel movement al Shabab – on the brain. Kenya does not want another war on its doorstep. The refugee issues are huge as well. Kenya already hosts thousands of refugees from Somali, and is home to Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. To have Southern Sudanese pouring (back) into Kenya would put a real strain on the country. All of these problems interlock with each other and the issue of drought. In the Greater Horn of Africa, particularly with such heavy regional involvement in the war in Somalia right now, each country’s problems really do become those of its neighbors as well.