Bridging Nations

On 21st March 2018, 44 African heads of state signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which seeks to remove tariffs on 90 percent of continental trade. For many years, experts have recognised that increasing intra-African trade is key to economic development; however, this has been hindered, not only by tariffs, but also by Africa’s infrastructure deficit. Nevertheless, there are recent encouraging signs of improvement, particularly in the south and east, which should complement AfCFTA.

Infrastructure Deficit

In March 2018, the Export-Import Bank of India claimed in a study that inadequate transport infrastructure adds 30 to 40 percent to the cost of goods traded among African countries. In May 2017, the African Development Bank (AfDB) claimed in a report that, although intra-African trade has increased, transport and communication infrastructure is less developed between countries on the continent than it is between Africa and the rest of the world. Given this situation, it is unsurprising that intra-African trade continues to struggle.

However, there are signs of change. In Southern and Eastern Africa there are many transport infrastructure projects in development, seeking to build economic (as well as literal) bridges between nations and open the interior to international trade.

Port Expansion

International trade in Southern and Eastern Africa has been through a small number of ports, many of them in need of development. In the past year, improvements have started to be made. In July 2017, the World Bank approved a $345 million loan for the expansion of the Port of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and in October 2017, it was announced that the Japanese government would provide a loan worth close to $350 million for the second phase of expansion at the Port of Mombasa in Kenya. Even Africa’s largest and most developed port – the Port of Durban in South Africa – commenced an upgrade and expansion project in 2017.

There has also been a growing number of rehabilitation projects at undeveloped ports along the eastern seaboard. Nacala in northern Mozambique, the mega-port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania and Berbera in Somaliland are three examples of such projects. These projects are vital to landlocked countries, which are often over-reliant on a specific transport route for exports. For example, nearly 95 percent of Ethiopia’s foreign trade is through the Port of Djibouti; a dependency that should be alleviated by rehabilitation of the Port of Berbera.

Opening the Interior

It is recognised that developments on the coast must be matched by infrastructure projects inland. The development of the Port of Nacala is part of a wider Nacala Corridor project, which includes a railway line to link north western Mozambique and Malawi to the coast. There are plans for this line to be extended into Zambia. Similarly, the expansion of the Port of Mombasa was preceded by the development of a new railway between Mombasa and Nairobi. This railway is part of an ambitious East African Railway Network, which will link Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. The second phase is currently under construction and the line should reach Uganda’s border by 2021.

Rail and Road Regeneration

In recent years, there has been investment in railway infrastructure across Southern and Eastern Africa which not only links the interior to ports but also facilitates intra-African trade. Projects in the region include: Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway between Ethiopia and Djibouti; Tazara Railway between Zambia and Tanzania; Lobito-Luau Railway between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); and Trans-Kalahari Railway between Namibia and Botswana. While such projects have progressed at different paces, governments in the region have at least acknowledged the importance of modernising railway infrastructure: an important step to increasing intra-African trade.

There has also been increased investment in road infrastructure. The LAPSSET Corridor project in Kenya seeks to strengthen transport links between Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. Although this project’s progress has been sluggish, new highways have greatly reduced travel time between Nairobi and the Ethiopian border, suggesting strong potential for the rest of the project. Another example of reducing travel time through improved road infrastructure is the Kazungula Bridge, which is set to be completed by March 2019. The road and rail bridge will link Zambia and Botswana and create a one-stop border post between the two countries. It is estimated that this will reduce the time crossing the border from 30 hours to 6 hours. This will greatly improve transport along the North-South Corridor from the Port of Durban to the Copperbelt in the DRC and Zambia. Zimbabwe also joined the Kazungula Bridge project in March 2018. Although there are concerns that it could divert business away from Zimbabwe, the country’s road network will be linked to the project and it may encourage the government to upgrade its current road infrastructure to remain competitive.

Foundation for the Future

While many of the transport infrastructure projects in Southern and Eastern Africa have been slow-moving and have suffered from bureaucratic inefficiency, and in some instances corruption, improvements are evidently being made. This will not only open the interior to a growing number of international ports, but also increase intra-African trade. While established sectors such as mining will be the primary beneficiaries in the short-term, it should also contribute to the development of a range of sectors in the medium to long-term. Such development will be aided by the AfCFTA, which, although still to be ratified by each country’s government and lacking the support of important economies like Nigeria, will further reduce barriers to intra-African trade. The combination of the AfCFTA and improvements to transport infrastructure in Southern and Eastern Africa is providing a strong foundation for local economies.  This will doubtless present a range of investment opportunities in the coming years.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s April 2018 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

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A Look Ahead to May 2018

Referendum on Burundi’s Future

In March 2018, it was announced that a referendum on changes to Burundi’s constitution would take place on 17th May 2018. The proposed changes include the extension of presidential terms from five to seven years and the implementation of a two-term limit. However, importantly, this term limit will not account for any previous terms, enabling the current president – Pierre Nkurunziza – to serve until 2034.

Since Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third-term in 2015, which seemingly contradicted the terms of the Arusha Accords – a peace agreement that helped to end Burundi’s civil war – Burundi has experienced a prolonged and violent political crisis. During this crisis, it is estimated that over 400,000 civilians have fled the country and over 1200 people have been killed. The security forces and the ruling party’s youth league – Imbonerakure – have coordinated a violent crackdown on opposition groups and the media. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into Nkurunziza as a result of this, which demonstrates its severity. And, with the constitutional referendum fast approaching, it appears that the regime has intensified its repressive strategy to ensure the continuation of Nkurunziza’s presidency.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been highly critical of the regime and has warned that intimidation is being used in order to pass the constitutional changes. There has been an increase in arbitrary arrests of members of the opposition Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), who have also been the targets of violent attacks from the Imbonerakure. The government has suspended the online comments section of the IWACU newspaper for a three-month period and the National Assembly has passed a law allowing the security forces to conduct night raids without warrants. Moreover, senior figures in the regime have issued explicit threats to those who oppose the government. For example, in January 2018, the First Vice President – Gaston Sindimwo – reportedly stated that “political opponents who campaign for the no vote must be arrested because, for us, this is rebellious against the orders of the head of state”.

Under such conditions, the result of the referendum is almost predetermined. That said, as government repression increases ahead of the vote, there is potential for violent unrest, particularly in the capital – Bujumbura.     

Africa’s Economists Assemble in Korea

The 53rd Annual Meeting of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) Board of Governors will take place in South Korea between 21st and 25th May 2018. The meeting will attract heads of state, finance ministers, central bank governors and other public and private stakeholders from across the continent. The theme of the meeting will be ‘Accelerating Africa’s Industrialisation’ and it seems that the aim is to learn from the successes of their host.

The decision to hold the meeting in South Korea reflects the increase in its investment in Africa. This has been particularly pronounced in East Africa, where, following the fifth Korea-Africa Economic Co-operation Conference in October 2016, South Korea pledged $155 million in concessional loans for development projects in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. In addition to such development finance, South Korean companies have increased their presence on the continent. This is especially noticeable in Rwanda, where the state-owned telecommunications company – KT Corporation – has played an important role in developing Rwanda’s communications infrastructure. The company reportedly plans to use Rwanda “as a regional hub” as it seeks to expand its “Pan-Africa business”.

It appears that both the AfDB and the South Korean government see next month’s meeting as an opportunity to further develop such partnerships between Korean companies and African governments. Deputy Prime Minister Kim Dong-yeon has described the meeting as the most important event on South Korea’s calendar, other than the Winter Olympics in 2017, and AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina has stated that the event will be “short on talk and high on transactions and project pipelines”. If this is the case, it should be beneficial for Africa. South Korean investment could help to further reduce the continent’s infrastructure deficit and next month’s meeting may act as a catalyst for this.

Extracting Consensus Proving Difficult in South Africa

Since June 2017, when the former Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane unveiled a third, and apparently final, version of South Africa’s Mining Charter, the sector has been enveloped by uncertainty. The Chamber of Mines, which represents 90 percent of South African mining companies, applied for an urgent court interdict to prevent the new charter from being implemented and Zwane responded by suspending the charter until the case was settled. The primary point of contention between the two sides was the degree of black ownership in the sector.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s ascension to the presidency in February 2018, was treated as an opportunity to bring all of the stakeholders back to the negotiation table in order to try to resolve this impasse. Ramaphosa side-lined Zwane, before replacing him with the ANC’s National Chairperson – Gwede Mantashe – and the Chamber of Mines agreed to suspend its court case.

In early April 2018, it seemed that progress was being made and that Mantashe, who has a long history in the sector, was a good choice as minister of mineral resources. Although the Chamber of Mines claimed a victory on 4th April, when the high court ruled in favour of the “once empowered, always empowered” principle, Mantashe appeared to be understanding and there was no indication that he would seek to appeal this decision. He was critical of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partners who sold their shares to make quick profits and said that each company would be assessed on a case by case basis. And on 10th April, he announced that 80 percent of the negotiations had been completed and reaffirmed his aim to finalise the third version of the charter by the end of May 2018. However, on 24th April, Mantashe declared that the Department of Mineral Resources would appeal the court’s decision. He said that the ruling could have “dire implications” for “economic transformation” in South Africa.

Accordingly, it is highly unlikely that the new charter will be finalised by the end of May. It is important that Mantashe continues to seek consensus through negotiations and not repeat the mistake of his predecessor by prematurely gazetting the new charter. The decision to appeal the ruling undoubtedly reflects the views of other stakeholders and it is going to take time to find common ground between the government, Chamber of Mines, unions and mining communities. The negotiations next month will provide a strong indicator of whether Mantashe will be able to resolve this matter and end the prolonged uncertainty that is hindering the sector. He certainly has the skills to do so, but divisions will be difficult to overcome.

Ramaphosa Plays Politics

Since becoming the leader of the ANC in December 2017 and president of South Africa in February, Cyril Ramaphosa’s ability to turn around South Africa’s fortunes has been increasingly called in to question. He was widely seen as the antidote to economic decline under Jacob Zuma but, following re-emergence of the land redistribution controversy, confidence in Ramaphosa is waning, especially amongst investors. However, when Ramaphosa’s decisions are examined in the context of 2019’s election, a different, far more encouraging, picture emerges.

Since its electoral highwater mark in 2004, support for the ANC has declined at every general and local election. This decline was particularly pronounced in municipal elections in 2016, when the ANC lost control of major municipalities and its vote share dropped below 55 percent for the first time. Worryingly for the ANC, local elections provide a strong indication of the ANC’s performance at subsequent general elections. In 2006, the ANC secured 66.3 percent of the vote in the municipal elections and, in 2009, it obtained 65.9 percent of the vote at the general election. In 2011, the ANC secured 61.95 percent of the vote in the municipal elections and, in 2014, it obtained 62.15 percent of the vote in the general election. If this pattern continues, the ANC is on course to secure some 55% in next year’s election; a matter of which Ramaphosa is no doubt acutely aware.

The ANC’s decision to support the Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF) motion on land expropriation without compensation must be seen within this context. Ramaphosa recognises that land redistribution is an important matter for the ANC’s base and that any perceived opposition to it would be used by the EFF to discredit him. Before he even became president, it was clear that the EFF planned to portray Ramaphosa as being out of touch with normal South Africans and supportive of ‘White’ economic interests. As its leader – Julius Malema – stated in early February, “What we were doing with Zuma, it was a picnic […] Wait and see what is going to happen with Ramaphosa. What we are going to do to White monopoly capital”.

Consequently, it is unsurprising that Ramaphosa supported the motion, with two effects. First, it helps to protect Ramaphosa and the ANC from EFF criticism ahead of next year’s election. And, second, it helps to weaken the two main opposition parties – the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the EFF. Although the DA and the EFF formed an unlikely alliance in opposing Zuma, this has rapidly broken down since the land expropriation motion, which was opposed by the DA. Accordingly, the EFF has focused its criticism on the DA and is currently trying to remove its mayor in Nelson Mandela Bay – Athol Trollip.

With the DA and EFF at loggerheads, Ramaphosa and the ANC have undermined both parties. In February, the ANC helped to protect the DA’s Mayor of Cape Town – Patricia de Lille – from a motion of no confidence brought by her own party. This was embarrassing for the DA and revealed divisions in the party’s Western Cape stronghold. In March, Ramaphosa invited Malema to re-join the ANC. Although some commentators saw this as further evidence of an ANC lurch to the left, it is more likely that this was a tactical decision to undermine the EFF. Ramaphosa described the ANC as the “home” of EFF supporters and, after backing its motion, he seemingly challenged the need for its existence. The EFF will become increasingly radical in its policies and rhetoric to distance itself from the ANC. This will damage its electoral appeal and, given that it has already been described by sections of the South African media as a “fascist” party, should ensure that it does not pose a significant threat to the ANC’s dominance.

Regarding the land expropriation motion, despite the panic it has invoked, it is unlikely that it will be applied aggressively. There is little reason to believe Ramaphosa will pursue a policy akin to that of neighbouring Zimbabwe. He understands the effect that the policy could have on South Africa’s economy and he has made it clear that his priority is to protect it. Given racial inequalities in South Africa, it is unsurprising that such a motion has widespread support and it should be considered positive that its potential implementation will be overseen by Ramaphosa. The former union leader turned business tycoon has always been able to adopt a range of guises and straddle different groups. Ultimately, he is a pragmatic political negotiator; the type of character which is needed to oversee a potentially explosive matter.

Thus, although it seemed that the land expropriation motion was a victory for the EFF and the far left, it appears that Ramaphosa is using it to the ANC’s advantage. It is highly unlikely that the president will pursue Malema’s interpretation of the policy. Rather, its implementation will most probably be the result of a well thought through process. In the meantime, Ramaphosa will use land redistribution to weaken the opposition and help stem the ANC’s decline. While it is unlikely that Ramaphosa will be able to halt a long-term decline in the ANC’s fortunes, his manoeuvres may mean that next year’s election will be better than those of 2016.

This article originally featured in Africa Integrity’s April 2018 Newsletter. To join our newsletter mailing list, please contact us.

A Look Ahead to April 2018

Gambia’s Road to Democracy

On 12th April, the Gambia will hold its first municipal election since the fall of Yahya Jammeh, who lost the presidential election in late 2016. This represents another step towards strengthening democracy in the small nation after a successful parliamentary election in April 2017. As the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) – Alieu Momarr Njai – stated last year, the municipal elections are a “key pillar in promoting and building grass roots democracy” in the Gambia. While EU observers identified shortcomings in the electoral legal framework following last year’s parliamentary election, it recognised that these were “offset” by broad trust in the IEC and genuine political competition. They concluded that “goodwill on behalf of the people and institutions of the Gambia provided for the restoration of key democratic rights”. Undoubtedly, democratic reforms are still needed, as too much power continues to lie with the president; however, it is expected that the Ministry of Justice’s constitutional review should bring about such reforms. Although more needs to be done to engage the electorate, as there was only a 42 percent turnout last year, next month’s election is set to be another free, fair and peaceful election in this fledgling democracy.

Politically speaking, next month’s election is extremely important for the former ruling party – Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) – which lost 43 of its 48 seats in the 58-member National Assembly. Given the APRC’s association with Jammeh, it is likely that it will experience similar losses in the municipal elections, which could spell the end of its role in Gambian politics. While Adama Barrow won the presidential election as a representative of an opposition coalition, after this coalition separated, it was his party – the United Democratic Party (UDP) – which dominated last year’s election, securing 31 seats in the National Assembly. Although progress has been slow, the UDP is expected to perform well again, in light of the praise bestowed on Barrow by the IMF for stabilising and strengthening the economy. However, the long-term maintenance of such support will be largely dependent on the UDP’s ability to reduce unemployment in the Gambia, particularly amongst the country’s youth.

Counter-terrorism Conference Converges in Algeria   

Late last year, the African Union (AU) announced that Algeria would be the coordinator of its counter-terrorism strategy and, on 9th April, the country will host a conference on counter-terrorism in Africa. The conference is expected to be attended by high-level political and security officials from across the continent and it is seen as an opportunity for different countries to exchange ideas about counter-terrorism strategies. Such a conference opens the possibility of broadening co-operation between different countries, which is vital in the fight against terrorism on the continent. The majority of terrorist organisations active in Africa have a regional, rather than national, focus and have launched attacks across the continent’s porous borders. Consequently, regional co-operation will be important for any counter-terrorism strategies. Furthermore, the conference will specifically address cross-border terrorist-financing and ways in which different countries’ security apparatuses can restrict funding sources.

In March 2017, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation reported that terrorist attacks had grown by 1000 percent in Africa since 2006 and, considering the attacks in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Somalia earlier this month, there is little sign of this slowing. Countries have begun to recognise the importance of regional co-operation, which was shown by the meeting of the heads of intelligence agencies from 13 East African countries in Kampala on 19th March; however, much more is needed. While the G5 Sahel Taskforce exists in northwest Africa, Algeria has been criticised for not supporting its operations, supposedly because it considers it a tool of France. Algeria has also been criticised by Morocco for its lack of co-operation in counter-terrorism initiatives in North Africa. The country was chosen by the AU because of its “pioneering experience” of dealing with terrorism and hopefully next month’s conference will demonstrate its desire to share this experience and represent the beginning of a greater level of continental co-operation on security matters.

Elections in the Ashes of Gabon’s Democracy

In the aftermath of the disputed 2016 presidential election, Gabon’s National Assembly was set on fire by opposition demonstrators. Images of this event became a symbol of the heated dispute between the government and opposition, which is continuing to engulf Gabonese politics. While the building has been repaired, for many in the opposition, little has been done to address what it represents. Despite only narrowly defeating Jean Ping by less than two percentage points, President Ali Bongo Ondimba has increased presidential powers over the last two years and failed to make any headway in negotiations with the opposition. In January 2018, changes were made to the constitution, which, not only removed presidential term-limits and provided Ali Bongo with immunity from prosecution, but also enabled the president to determine the policy of the nation without government or parliamentary consultation. Consequently, political power in Gabon is now firmly concentrated around Ali Bongo.

Since the presidential election, Gabon’s National Assembly election has been postponed twice because of the failure of reconciliation talks between the government and opposition and is now scheduled to take place before the end of April. The ruling Gabonese Democratic Party dominate the National Assembly holding 115 of the 121 seats; a majority used by Ali Bongo to increase presidential powers. Given its performance in the presidential election, there were strong indications that the opposition Coalition for the New Republic (CNR) would be able to end this dominance. However, in light of the weakening of the National Assembly’s role in Gabonese politics, it appears that the coalition is fragmenting. Nine of the twelve parties in the coalition have called for a boycott of the election, while other senior CNR figures met with the Minister of the Interior in early March to discuss preparation for them. Significantly, the coalition’s presidential flag-bearer has remained silent on this matter. Accordingly, it appears that the Gabonese Democratic Party’s dominance is not under significant threat.

Despite the election being less than a month away, there has been little preparation for it. The Gabonese Elections Centre, which is meant to manage the election, has not yet been established and, given that its chairperson is meant to be selected by the government and opposition, it is increasingly unlikely that it will be ready to run the election. There are growing calls for the election to be postponed again amid concerns that it could descend into violence. Although this will do little to address the underlying political tension in the country and only enable it to continue to build, if the election goes ahead, it is likely to cause widespread social unrest as elements of the opposition come out in protest.

Africa Integrity Foresight: Democracy Dawning in the DRC?

 

DRC flag

In the second paper of our ‘Foresight’ series, Michael Kearsey examines the outlook for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2018, in light of the political crisis in the country, which has now entered its third year, and upcoming elections in December. Questions continue to be asked about President Joseph Kabila’s future and it seems that many of these will be answered this year. There is a growing sense of urgency in the messages we have received from sources in-country and the wider region, which indicate that changes are afoot. Although political changes have always been associated with violence in the DRC, there is reason to believe that this time may be different, and we could be looking at the dawning of democracy in the DRC.  This paper sets out a case for optimism.

To request a copy of this paper, please contact us.

 

A Look Ahead to March 2018

A Three Horse Race in Sierra Leone

On 7th March 2018, Sierra Leone will go to the polls to vote for the country’s next president. The incumbent – Ernest Bai Koroma – of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) is standing down after serving two terms, in line with the country’s constitution. Although he will no longer serve as president, sources from within the APC have informed Africa Integrity that Koroma wants to continue to influence the new administration, if the APC are victorious. This is illustrated by both his role in the selection of the APC’s presidential candidate and his desire to continue as chairman of the party. Although the party’s candidate was meant to be chosen through a democratic process, Koroma unilaterally selected the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Samura Kamara – as the APC’s candidate. Thus, it seems that, if Kamara wins, he will maintain the status quo and it is likely that Koroma will continue to govern from behind the scenes.

Kamara will face 15 candidates from other parties in the election, but only two are likely to pose real competition. These are Julius Maada Bio from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), who also ran in 2012, and Kandeh Yumkella from the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC). Outside of military rule, Sierra Leonean politics has been dominated by the APC and SLPP. However, since Yumkella left the SLPP in September 2017 and formed the NGC, there are indications that this is starting to change. He has shown himself to be a very popular candidate in urban Sierra Leone, particularly in Freetown, where he has been drawing large crowds of supporters. The APC are evidently concerned about the threat posed by Yumkella and have petitioned the Supreme Court to bar him from taking part in the election because of his previous dual citizenship. This attempt has already been dismissed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and it is likely that the Supreme Court will follow suit. Although it is unlikely that Yumkella will be able to win the election outright, due to the established bases of the APC and SLPP, by turning the election into a three-horse race, it is highly likely that it will go to a run-off. In such a scenario, Yumkella will be an in a very influential position.

While there have been some instances of political violence during the campaign, these have tended to be isolated and there is not a significant threat of unrest. Importantly, the NEC is considered an independent organisation and the country’s recent elections have all been deemed credible. However, this is the first election since the departure of the UN Mission in 2014 and, given the APC’s attempt to prevent Yumkella from standing, if it goes to a run-off, political tensions will be very high, which could cause isolated instances of unrest and violence.

Time’s up for Zimbabweans on Mnangagwa’s Name and Shame List

In late November 2017, Zimbabwe’s new president – Emmerson Mnangagwa – declared an amnesty for individuals and companies involved in the misappropriation of public funds and the illegal externalisation of this money. He stated that “The government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets, with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them”. However, he said that “upon expiry of the three-month window, the government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws”. At a Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting in December 2017, Mnangagwa added that “I have a list of who took money out. So, in March when the period expires, those who would not have heeded my moratorium I will name and shame them”. Consequently, it appears that time is up for those on Mnangagwa’s “list”. Although such an anti-corruption initiative will have a positive effect, given Mnangagwa’s chequered past, it seems unlikely that this will be a comprehensive initiative. Rather, there is a strong possibility that Mnangagwa will use this opportunity to damage the reputations of potential adversaries, particularly within Zanu-PF, ahead of this year’s election.

Sissi Set for Another Victory in Egypt

On 26th March 2018, Egypt will hold its second presidential election since the 2013 coup, which removed the country’s first democratically elected president – Mohamed Morsi. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who secured over 95 percent of the vote in 2014, is the favourite to win the election and will face only one contender – Moussa Mostafa Moussa – the leader of the El-Ghad Party. Although a number of candidates intended to run against Sissi, Moussa was the only one to officially submit his candidacy. Many of the other candidates were forced to drop out of the race due to threats from the government, and some were even arrested. Consequently, the remaining opposition candidates declared a boycott of the election. Despite proclaiming that he “will not be a background actor”, most oppositionists do not consider Moussa a genuine candidate because of his support of Sissi. Rather, he is seen as merely standing in order to provide an air of legitimacy to the election.

The government has been heavily criticised for its treatment of opposition candidates by human rights groups. It has been accused of exploiting its counterterrorism laws to stifle opposition activities and conduct arbitrary arrests. Such arrests are continuing to take place as Egypt’s Prosecutor General has called for investigations into the parties boycotting the election. Interestingly, those prevented from running in the election included senior military figures, such as retired Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Anan, who was arrested after announcing his intention to stand, and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, who was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for expressing political opinions as a serving officer. This restriction of Egypt’s democratic space, alongside the persecution of senior military figures, has the potential to cause problems for Sissi in the medium term, as groups are increasingly likely to reject the democratic process as a means of expressing political opinion.

While there is no doubt that Sissi will win this month’s election, the tactics adopted by the government and security services, although effective in impeding the opposition in the short-term, could create serious problems going forward. As the government struggles to reduce the growing terrorism threat emanating from the Sinai region, pressure on Sissi will increase during his second term, which could lead to unrest and political instability.

Is Kabila Finally Preparing to Step Down?

DRC flagSurrounded by accusations of wanting to alter the constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in order to remove presidential terms limits, President Joseph Kabila has refused to stand down since the end of his second term in December 2016. Although Kabila has had to contend with anti-government protests since then, it appears that regional, rather than domestic, pressure may be what finally convinces him to step down and allow a democratic transition to take place.  

Since the violent suppression of anti-government protests in January 2018, there have been signs that Kabila is inclining towards a more conciliatory position. On 26th January 2018, Kabila held his first press conference in five years and reiterated his commitment to holding elections by December this year. Although he refused to accept responsibility for the violence and took a swipe at the opposition, such a public proclamation is a rare occurrence and indicates that Kabila recognises that the electoral process cannot be delayed further. While Kabila did not address the ever-increasing calls for him to stand-down, his Minister of Communications – Lambert Mende – addressed this issue in an interview in early February. In the interview, Mende asserted that Kabila does not intend to stand in this year’s election or to choose a successor and rule by proxy. He said that “this is not a kingdom […], it is a democratic republic”. Although Mende’s comments have received significant attention in international media, it should be noted that he reportedly backtracked on them later, when speaking to Congolese media. Nevertheless, such confusion at least suggests that Kabila is unsure about running again.

Despite criticising the opposition during his press conference and insinuating that they will cause the DRC to descend into “chaos”, there are signs that Kabila is willing to re-open negotiations with opposition figures and adopt a more placatory stance. This is demonstrated by the proposed release of two prominent political prisoners – Jean Claude Muyambo and Eugène Diomi Ndongala. At the time of writing, both prisoners are expected to be released on 20th February 2018. There is an expectation that this could lead to the release of more political prisoners and maybe even the dropping of charges against Moïse Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga, who announced his presidential candidacy on 2nd January 2018. Although there is little indication of this happening in the short-term, Africa Integrity has been informed that Kabila has offered an olive branch to Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo – a figurehead of the protests in January, which were backed by the Catholic Church in the DRC. According to our sources, Monsengwo has been invited by Kabila to discuss ways to “revive” the December 31st Saint-Sylvestre Agreement between the government and opposition. This readiness to reengage with the opposition is a radical change in approach from Kabila, which could be an indication of his willingness to step aside.

The Catholic Church’s support for anti-government protests is undoubtedly significant, given that around 50 percent of the DRC’s population is Catholic. Moreover, Africa Integrity understands that other religious groups have been following the Catholic Church’s example. Nevertheless, according to our sources, it is Kabila’s loss of regional support that has had a greater effect on his apparent change in approach. It is understood that Kabila has had to reassess his position since the fall of two of his powerful regional allies: Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe; and Jacob Zuma in South Africa. In spite of international pressure, both of these individuals were unwavering in their support of Kabila since December 2016. For example, in June 2017, Zuma invited Kabila to South Africa and publicly pledged his support for the embattled president. We have been informed that since Mugabe and Zuma resigned, Kabila has started to feel increasingly “isolated” and has begun to re-evaluate his future.

Although Kabila can still count on the support of President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, Paul Kagame in Rwanda and Edgar Lungu in Zambia, Museveni and Kagame are facing increasing criticism for their alleged support of rebel groups in the DRC and Lungu is preoccupied by an opposition which aims to prevent him from standing in the next election in Zambia. Furthermore, Kabila’s close ties with Congo-Brazzaville and Angola seem to be weakening. The pressure put on these countries, especially Angola, by the influx of refugees from the DRC, has put strain on their governments’ relationships with Kabila. It has been reported that the ruling MPLA in Angola, which has previously provided much needed military support to Kabila, will no longer be willing to intervene directly in the country, particularly under its new president – João Lourenço. Similarly, given the current instability in Congo-Brazzaville, it is highly unlikely that President Denis Sassou Nguesso will be in a position to support his neighbour. Senior political sources in Congo-Brazzaville and Angola have confirmed that both Lourenço and Sassou Nguesso have recently informed Kabila that they will not intervene on his behalf and that they support elections going ahead this year.

Along with the fall of Mugabe and Zuma, this constitutes a loss of regional backing for Kabila, leaving him increasingly exposed. It appears that Kabila has begun to realise that, without regional support, elections cannot be delayed any further, and it will be extremely difficult for him to stand again. After his motorcade was involved in two accidents in February, suspicions of assassination plots are rife, and it seems that Kabila sees a more conciliatory approach towards the opposition as his best means of protection. While Kabila may still try to put his name forward for the election, there are strong indications that he has realised that a third term will not be possible and that he is finally preparing to stand down.