Africa News Roundup: Kenyatta and the ICC, Niger Bombings, Northern Kenya, Libya, Algeria, and More

AP:

With the help of French special forces, Niger’s military on Friday killed the last two jihadists holed up inside a dormitory on the grounds of a military garrison in the desert town of Agadez, and freed at least two soldiers who had been held hostage by the extremists, according to French and Nigerien officials.

See also Reuters on a claim of responsibility for the attack by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who was reported killed in March. Opinions may vary as to whether Belmokhtar is still alive or not.

VOA:

South Sudan President Salva Kiir said Thursday that he would “never accept” the International Criminal Court. He spoke during a visit from new Kenyan president and ICC indictee Uhuru Kenyatta, who pledged the creation of roads, rail and pipelines to deepen economic ties between Kenya and the new nation.

[…]

“We have talked about these problems of the ICC, that the ICC, whatever has been written in Rome, has never been used against any one of their presidents or heads of states. It seems that this thing has been meant for African leaders, that they have to be humiliated,” said Kiir.

Reuters:

African nations have backed a request by Kenya for charges of crimes against humanity by its president to be referred back to the east African country, African Union documents show.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, are both facing trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC), accused of masterminding ethnic bloodshed in post-election violence five years ago that killed more than 1,200 people. Both deny the charges.

One minister, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters that the African Union specifically avoided calling on the war crimes tribunal to drop its prosecution, but he acknowledged that the request for a local process amounted to the same thing.

AP: “Violence in Somalia Scares Investors, Aid Workers.”

Two headlines on Libya give a mixed picture of the country’s trajectory:

  • AFP: “Libya Economy Surges Following Revolution: IMF” (The IMF’s Libya country page is here).
  • Al Jazeera (video report): “Libyan Armed Groups Refuse to Cede Power”

World Politics Review: “With [President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika Still Sidelined, Algeria’s Challenges Mount.”

IRIN: “Restive Northern Kenya Sees Shifting Power, Risks.”

Africa News Roundup: Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Al Shabab, the UNSC and Mali, and More

First in the roundup, there’s a lot of news coming out of Sudan and South Sudan now:

  • President Omar al Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are set to meet tomorrow in Addis Ababa.
  • Reuters: “Former civil war foes Sudan and South Sudan have told mediators that they are ready to end one of Africa’s longest conflicts this weekend, but behind the diplomacy their relationship is one of enduring mistrust and enmity. With an army of advisors and experts pressuring both sides, the leaders of the neighboring nations may feel compelled to reach a limited agreement in Addis Ababa to end hostilities, for now, after coming close to war in April.”
  • The African Union is applying pressure on the two sides to reach an agreement, and the US, the UK, and Norway have issued a joint statement also calling for an agreement.
  • Sudanese authorities denied protesters permission to stage another demonstration over an anti-Islamic film yesterday.

The Atlantic: “How Al Shabab Lost Control of Somalia”

The UN Security Council issued a press release yesterday on the situation in Mali.

The members of the Security Council take note of the Interim Malian Government’s request for assistance to ECOWAS.  They further take note of the ongoing strategic planning efforts of ECOWAS and stress the need for ECOWAS to coordinate with the Interim Government of Mali, the African Union, other Sahel countries, bilateral partners and international organizations, including the European Union, with the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in order to prepare detailed options regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the deployment of a regional force in Mali.  They express their readiness to consider a feasible and actionable proposal from ECOWAS addressing such a request from the Interim Malian Government.

In Nigeria, state governors are taking the Federal Government to court over the country’s sovereign wealth fund. “The operation of the fund by the federal government violates a constitutional provision that all government revenue must be shared among that states and the center, the governors said in a joint statement.”

Reuters on Niger’s 2013 budget.

What else is happening?

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.

North and South Sudan Take a Step Toward (Some) Peace

This weekend Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir met with his counterpart, President Omar al Bashir of Sudan, in Khartoum. Although the problems between the two Sudans are far from over, this visit hopefully marks a step toward a resolution of major issues. This resolution may be flawed, but hopefully it will be one that both sides can live with.

The two largest issues dividing the two sides are how to share revenues from oil and how to demarcate the border. The border issue is especially complex: a number of areas are disputed, most famously the territory of Abyei, whose referendum on whether to join the North or the South has been indefinitely postponed (currently it lies within the North). Although coming up with a formula for oil sharing and resolving Abyei’s status might be enough to conclude the major disputes between the two sides, the question of the border areas is also significant because of the violence going on in several Northern states that lie on the new border. Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States are home to thousands of people who fought for or sympathize with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the governing party in the South. Even though such areas are not part of the new South Sudan, Southern leaders are keen to see violence end there. So long as it continues there will be serious tensions between South Sudan and Sudan.

Sudan Tribune provides details of the framework agreed upon in Khartoum:

Sudan and South Sudan have setup five task-forces to trash out issues of economy and border security among others…

The five committees include bilateral relations, economy, higher education, humanitarian affairs and border security.

Sudan’s minister of finance and national economy, Ali Mahmud, said that the two sides had agreed on five points in the fields of economic cooperation and banking exchange as well as on establishing a joint administration to manage oil facilities and promoting cross-border trade.

VOA and AFP have more.

The next step will be a meeting in Juba on October 18, which is quite soon.

There are reasons for pessimism – talks could fall through, issues could remain intractable, implementation could falter, and violence in the border regions could worsen, bringing tensions to new highs – but the personal involvement of Bashir and Kiir, combined with the genesis of this new framework, suggests that the two sides are serious about reaching a solution. As I said above, I do not think all the disputes will be ironed out, and some level of violence in the border areas may continue to keep relations problematic, but if resolution on revenues-sharing and Abyei comes, the two countries will be able to move forward.

Regarding Abyei, I think (North Sudan) will likely hold onto it. Their de facto control of the area gives them a huge advantage, though they may have to give Juba some big concessions to keep it.

South Sudan Continues to Look Toward the Future

Despite the uncertainty that surrounds an upcoming referendum on South Sudanese independence, South Sudan continues to prepare for statehood. The referendum will only be the beginning for the new nation.

South Sudan Landscape by sidelife

Reuters:

More than 20 southern Sudanese political parties have agreed to hold a fresh census, new elections and rewrite the constitution if the south secedes as expected in less than three months.

The five-day conference in the southern capital Juba also agreed a broad-based, post-secession interim government would be headed by South Sudan President Salva Kiir until new elections.

South Sudan is also training 6,500 police cadets in anticipation of the referendum and what comes after:

They are being taught to perform crowd control, secure polling stations and other skills they will need for the planned January 9 referendum that is expected to see south Sudan vote to secede from the north. They are also ready to handle public disturbances, keep the peace and deal with crime.

In a sense, this activity is nothing new. As commenter Lee (Roving Bandit) said in September, “South Sudan has been a defacto independent country for at least the last 5 years anyway, and will continue to be autonomous even in the event of unity.” Still, independence would/will bring new complications and considerations for South Sudan, domestically, regionally, and internationally. Conducting a census, holding elections, re-writing the constitution, expanding the police force, and boosting their military will not be easy tasks. The current round of preparations could be an effective start at tackling some of those priorities.

Col. Qaddhafi and South Sudan’s Relations with Africa

Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi (will the transcriptions of his name ever become uniform?) recently caused controversy by suggesting that South Sudan’s imminent independence could destabilize the rest of Africa.

On Sunday, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir criticised Southern Sudan’s leader Salva Kiir for saying he would vote for independence and warned of the possibility of renewed conflict.

He was speaking at an Arab-African summit League in the Libyan town of Sirte.

Libya’s leader told the same meeting that a vote for independence “could become a contagious disease that affects the whole of Africa”, with various ethnic and linguistic groups also demanding independence.

“We must recognise that this event is dangerous,” Col Gaddafi said.

Southern Sudan Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the BBC that Africa had not broken up when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

This exchange got me wondering again what South Sudan’s post-independence relations might look like. A friendly Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, a hostile North Sudan? What else? I guess much depends on how the vote goes down and how relations between North and South take shape in the months immediately after the referendum.

Sudan Sets Referendum Timetable, Violence Fears Continue

Yesterday the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission released a timetable to guide the preparations surrounding the scheduled January 9 referendum on southern independence. Having concrete dates and numbers, however, has not completely relieved observers who fear the possibility of violence.

To look at the preparations in detail, registration will run from November 14 to December 4. Other key dates include December 7, when campaigning begins, and December 31, when “the definitive electoral register is to be completed.” Here’s a look at the logistics:

Voter registration material is being printed in South Africa, while ballot papers will also be printed outside Sudan with security devices fitted to prevent fraud, Reec added.

Polling will take place across Sudan but only those able to prove they come from the south will be eligible to vote.

Voting will also take place in eight other countries — neighbouring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt, as well as in Australia, Britain, the United States and Canada.

In those countries, the intergovernmental International Organisation for Migration (IOM) will assist the registration process, Reec said.

The current schedule reflects a large delay that came down late last month. With preparations running behind schedule, “The BBC’s Peter Martell in the southern capital, Juba, says the timing for the referendum…is extremely tight.” Commissioners promise the vote will take place on time or after a very brief delay, but Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir has warned that violence may follow any delay. Meanwhile, “progress has been slow in settling a number of issues leading up to” a separate but related referendum in the border region of Abyei. Northern and Southern Sudanese officials are meeting with US mediators in Ethiopia this week to address the situation in Abyei, but they are behind schedule as well.

Small wonder, then, that US and UN envoys are worried about the situation in Sudan. A look at the helpful numbers sheet compiled at the Christian Science Monitor reminds us of the many different moving parts in this system, and the multiple pressures and problems surrounding the referendum.

Al Jazeera English also has a useful video (now a few days old) on the preparations for the referendum: