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Militias turn their guns on wildlife in Central Africa


on  Wednesday, January 3   2018 at  09:00

Heavily armed militia and poachers are a threat to wildlife populations in the Garamba-Bili-Chinko (GBC) region in Central Africa.

The militias are decimating wildlife in the 75,593 square kilometre region straddling northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo and southeastern Central African Republic.

Investigations have unearthed that poachers are trafficking in wildlife products like elephant tusks and leopard skins, among others, to South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, with corruption facilitating the illicit trade.

Garamba National Park and Bili Reserve are in the DRC, and Chinko Reserve is in CAR.

Garamba National Park, which has the Azande, Gangala-na-Bodio and Mondo-Missa reserves, is 14,635 square kilometres, and Bili reserve is 43,358 square kilometres. Chinko reserve is 17,600 square kilometres. The 755-kilometre Bomu River forms the border between the two countries.

“This remote region lacks infrastructure and government services. It is characterised by weak governance and insecurity perpetuated by activities of foreign armed groups, notably LRA,” said the Cambridge-based lobby.

CAR and DRC were at the bottom, at position 91 and 88 respectively, of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index of 2016. DRC’s military, the FARDC, historically has been implicated poaching.


The LRA has operated outside Uganda since 2005. The militia group poaches elephants to sell the ivory and acquire supplies.

The leader, Joseph Kony, is wanted by the Hague based International Criminal Court for human rights abuses.

LRA also trades in diamonds and gold through networks in DRC and CAR. Traders in Kafia Kingi area are the final outlets of LRA’s illegal goods. Kafia Kingi is a disputed area bordering Darfur between Sudan and South Sudan.

In the CAR, Haute Kotto Prefecture is a known hub for illicit trafficking to Darfur and Khartoum.

The LRA has recently broken up into smaller groups, reducing the likelihood of detection by the African Union-Led Regional Task Force (AU-RTF) and UN peacekeeping missions.

“They operate in small, decentralised groups, with rotation of personnel between units in the DRC, CAR and the Kafia Kingi enclave, where it is believed that Kony is headquartered,” said Traffic International.

Endangered species

Liz Williamson of Traffic International, and one of the authors of the report, said lack of enforcement of poaching and hunting laws further threatens shrinking endangered species such as elephant and chimpanzee.

“The lack of governance and enforcement has rendered local communities and wildlife an easy target for exploitation by armed groups, while illegal wildlife trade fuels continued instability across the landscape,” she said.

Armed groups, illegal trade in wildlife and illicit cross-border movements have led to political instability in the countries, as CAR and DRC rank fourth and seventh on Fragile States Index.

“These poachers transport high-value products, such as ivory, skins and other trophies to larger towns and cities to continue funding their poaching efforts. This group is made up of local and foreign actors,” said Traffic International.


Militarised poachers armed with semi-automatic weapons target buffalo, elephant and hippopotamus as well as other large mammals that live in protected areas.

Bushmeat is sold to individuals and restaurants in nearby villages and towns.

The militias include LRA, Sudan’s Janjaweed and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) as well as groups related to the anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka factions.

Séléka emerged as a coalition of rebel militia in 2012 and overthrew CAR’s government in 2013. The Muslim alliance was bolstered by heavily armed mercenaries and poachers from Chad and Sudan.

Anti-Balaka are a loosely organised self-defence militia, made up of Christians and animists, formed in 2013 to oppose Séléka. Over 14 factions, local militia and regional mercenaries are fighting to control CAR’s resources.

The rise in sectarian violence in CAR in 2013 created an ideal space for the LRA to operate in. UN troops control some towns in Mbomou and Haute-Kotto prefectures, but LRA has exploited gaps in security.


Traffic International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature in a recently concluded assessment found that GBC is losing its wildlife at an alarming rate.

“People and wildlife in this landscape have been deeply affected by the spillover of a long and complex history of violence and civil war in Sudan and South Sudan,” said the wildlife conservation organisations.

Janjaweed has poached CAR’s elephants since the 1980s, and has recently moved into the DRC.

Armed poachers from South Sudan are considered the greatest threat to Garamba’s wildlife. South Sudanese poachers appear to be soldiers, former soldiers, police officers and civilians.

The armed groups enter the DRC through Lantoto National Park.

A field investigative team from Traffic International and IUCN collected data, carried out research, and held discussions in 87 villages with over 700 people including traditional, religious and local leaders.

The investigators recommended incentives be put in place to discourage poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking activities, as well as developing economic opportunities for communities living in the GBC region.

Other recommendations to save the wildlife include strengthening law enforcement, engaging pastoralist communities, and improving transboundary conservation collaboration.

“It highlights the need for governments and other actors to work together as a global conservation network to stop the slaughter of wildlife in this region,” said IUCN Cameroon programme head Leonard Usongo.

Bushmeat is transported on motorcycles and in cars to villages and towns. Traders sell ivory, coats of big cats, teeth and claws hidden in bags of palm oil, pepper or cassava.


The investigators learnt that the routes used by traffickers are not fixed since they are serving black markets: Buyers do not always use the same locations and often have flexible itineraries.

There is also the presence of armed Mbororo, a subgroup of nomadic Fulani cattle herders, in northeast DRC. Most of the Mbororo now living in CAR arrived in the 1920s from Cameroon and Nigeria, through Chad.

From 2004, the Mbororo began to settle in CAR facilitated by Jean-Pierre Bemba’s Movement for Liberation of Congo. Mbororo are viewed suspiciously by the local Congolese communities.

Their culture, religion and lifestyles are different, and are perceived to be taking over the land from residents. They are viewed as illegal immigrants.

“Fulani have been reportedly trafficking ivory and leopard skins to South Sudan and Uganda. There are strong indications that Janjaweed are still benefiting from illegal ivory transiting through Kenya,” said Traffic International.

Conflicts with the Mbororo are blamed on competition for resources like water, illegal grazing, trampling of crops by livestock, and cattle herds taking over pasture from wildlife.

About 60 per cent of Mbororo interviewed admitted to being in violation of immigration laws, but planned to stay in the DRC anyway.

Hunting generates income for people living around protected areas in the GBC region, and about 20 per cent of men in northeast DRC engage in small-scale poaching.

Households get 11.6 per cent of annual income from artisanal mining of gold and diamonds in Bili. A study in Garamba found 82 per cent of miners earned enough for health care, school fees and basic needs.

“Some 18 per cent said the income from mining did not meet their needs. Although price of gold in area is $25 to $35 per gram, an individual’s yield from artisanal mining does not reach marketing units of whole grammes,” said IUCN.

The first points of sale for illegally procured wildlife products in CAR are Rafaï and Zemio towns. Zemio is the largest trading centre in the southeast for elephant meat and orphaned chimpanzees.

Some of the poachers are linked to backers who supply guns and ammunition. They too sell the meat locally, but the ivory and skins are transported to larger towns and cities including Bambari, Bangassou, Bria and Bangui.


Around Bili, traffickers heading south go to Buta through Bondo or Titule, and on to Banalia and Kisangani. Traffickers heading north to CAR cross Bomu River, and follow pastoralists’ trails into open grasslands or to where the border is porous.

“To reach CAR, they cross the river at Adama, Bakpolo or Basokpio, and head to a landing point near Zemio. Using the Ango route, through Dakwa, the crossing point and interim destination is also Zemio,” investigators said.

Almost all crossing points are controlled by armed groups including ex-Séléka elements who levy illegal taxes on passengers and goods.

The first points of trade from Garamba are urban centres like Aba, Dungu, Bangadi, Doruma, Durba and Faradje. It is estimated there are about 15 to 30 ivory dealers in Dungu. Goods then move to Aru, Isiro, Buta and Kisangani.

“From here on, intermediaries from other countries enter the trafficking chain. In CAR and DRC, wildlife products are generally delivered to local merchants, often nationals of Chad, Libya, Mali and Senegal,” said IUCN.

Products exit DRC through Aba, a town at the border with South Sudan, or Arua on the border with Uganda. Another route is the road between Dungu and South Sudan, for ivory from Garaba to get to Juba.

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Ethiopian pop star Teddy Afro delights fans, irks authorities

Posted AFP

on  Thursday, December 28   2017 at  12:18

He may be Ethiopia's biggest pop star but Teddy Afro hasn't held a concert in his country for years, some of his songs have been effectively banned, and the launch party for his last album was broken up by the police.

But sitting in the living room of his spacious house outside the capital, Addis Ababa, the 41-year-old musician is relaxed and says he is focused on promoting peace and unity in Ethiopia.

"As a child, I remember that we lived as one nation. We knew a nation that is called Ethiopia," Teddy said.

"But nowadays, we are identified and called by our ethnic background. And this has already become dangerous."

Ethiopia has been rocked by widespread anti-government protests over the last two years, killing hundreds and leading to a 10-month state of emergency that was only lifted in August.

In this context, Teddy's latest album, "Ethiopia", was released in May and shot to the top of Billboard's world music chart — despite his songs not being played on state radio and TV.

His lyrics and music videos have often been controversial, and viewed by many as critical of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), a formerly Marxist guerrilla movement that has ruled the country since 1991.

While fans adore Teddy's catchy melodies and nationalistic, often historical songs, written mostly in the national language Amharic, the authorities — who brook no opposition — view him with suspicion.

Protest anthem

Teddy — real name Tewodros Kassahun — first crossed the authorities in 2005 when his album "Yasteseryal" came out days before an election that descended into violence after the opposition denounced it as rigged.

That album was a homage to the country's final emperor from 1930 to 1974, Haile Selassie I, and its lead single "Jah Yasteseryal", questioning whether the government was improving the country, became a protest anthem.

In 2008, the musician was jailed for more than a year over an alleged hit-and-run killing in a case that many fans believe was politically motivated. He has always protested his innocence, saying he was not even in the country at the time of the accident.

While Teddy's songs can today be heard blasting from bars and buses across Addis Ababa, Ethiopians still fear playing "Jah Yasteseryal" in public, lest they be seen as agitating against the government.

to bad

In 2012, Teddy released "Tikur Sew", an album that took as its theme Emperor Menelik II, whose victory over 19th century Italian colonial invaders is a defining moment in Ethiopian history.

Yet among the country's largest ethnic group the Oromos, "Tikur Sew" was seen as an affront because it glorified an emperor who brutally absorbed Oromo territory into Ethiopia's borders.

The backlash was fierce enough that Heineken — whose beers are popular among Oromos — backed out of a deal to sponsor Teddy's concerts.

But Teddy says he is unbowed.

"There may be groups that have a negative attitude towards the last Ethiopian kings and history," he said, sat with a sword belonging to Menelik mounted on a wall nearby.

"While respecting their views as a perspective, the fact that they like or dislike my views will not change the truth."

Break-ups and bans

Ironically, it was the EPRDF's takeover of the country that allowed Teddy's music to flourish, as it ended the brutal communist dictatorship of the Derg, during which nightlife was suppressed.

While some musicians went on to reimagine traditional styles of jazz or dabble in rock, Teddy distinguished himself by making nationalism a centrepiece of his compositions.

When a rumour spread early in his career that he committed the taboo deed of autographing the breasts of female fans, Teddy batted down the allegation by saying that as an Ethiopian he could never do such a thing, a remark that won him admirers across the country.

His songs have urged harmony between Muslims and Christians and lampooned members of the diaspora who return home with nothing to show.

"He's preaching what he's living. We like that, Ethiopians like that," said Eyuel Solomon, programme manager for the capital's Afro FM radio station.

But the authorities remain firmly opposed to helping Teddy showcase his music.

Not only did police halt his launch party for "Ethiopia", but a planned concert to celebrate the Ethiopian new year was refused permission and he is still waiting for approval to play a concert marking Ethiopia's Christmas, in early January.

He insists the restrictions and setbacks do not damage his resolve to use his music as a force for good in Ethiopia.

However, his plans to spread his music more widely are likely to anger the government even more.

Teddy says he hopes to perform in the capital of Eritrea, a one-time territory of Ethiopia that is now a bitter foe, believing a performance in Asmara could improve relations between the two countries.

"What we need is the spirit of love, peace and forgiveness. This is because the current problems are the results of historical resentments," he said.

"We have to shake them off. We have to leave it behind."

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George Weah: ex-football star who could be Liberia's next leader

Posted AFP

on  Sunday, December 24   2017 at  13:11

George Weah emerged from Liberia's slums to become a superstar footballer in the 1990s, and has leveraged his status as a revered figure among the country's young and poor in his second run for the presidency.

Mr Weah will face Vice-President Joseph Boakai on Tuesday in a presidential run-off, the culmination of 12 years spent building political credibility to match his huge popularity.

"You know I've been in competitions — tough ones too and I came out victorious. So I know Boakai cannot defeat me," Mr Weah said ahead of the vote.

"I have the people on my side."

Civil war period

The first African player to win both Fifa's World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d'Or, Mr Weah was largely absent from Liberia during the 1989-2003 civil war period, playing for a string of top-flight European teams including Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan.

After running unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2005, when he was defeated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr Weah says he has "gained experience" since becoming a senator in 2014.

Another fruitless run for the vice-presidency on the ticket of presidential candidate Winston Tubman in 2011 brought him to further prominence among the nation's voters, many of whom say this time it is "Weah's turn".

Mr Weah, 51, has put education, job creation and infrastructure at the centre of his platform — in line with Mr Boakai — and won 38.4 per cent of votes in the first round election on October 10, while Mr Boakai came second with 28.8 per cent.

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Younger voters overwhelmingly favour Mr Weah, who is idolised in his country as "Mister George".

A member of the Kru ethnic group, Mr Weah was raised by his grandmother on a reclaimed swamp in one of the worst slums of the capital Monrovia.

"Grassroots citizens identify with George Weah, considering that he is close to their day-to-day experience," explained Mr Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei, a Liberian political analyst at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

His critics say the high school dropout, who later completed a degree, is unprepared to lead a country.

"George Weah is a good, humble and respectful person that should not be given the Liberian presidency, because he is being controlled by an evil hand," said Mr Benoni Urey, a losing presidential candidate who switched his allegiance to Mr Boakai.

Mr Urey and others say Mr Weah is being manipulated by President Sirleaf so she can continue to push an agenda when she steps down after 12 years in power.

But many voters see a poor boy from the slums who made good against the odds.


"I believe that whenever we give him a chance, he will be able to give a better Liberia to the youth and the homeless," Mr Andrew Janjay Johnson, a shoeshiner in a Monrovia market, told AFP.

Critics also accuse Mr Weah's Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) of having too vague a political platform, and have challenged his long absences from the senate since being elected in a race he won over President Sirleaf's son.

Mr Weah has also fended off barbs over his vice-presidential pick, Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of jailed former president and warlord Charles Taylor.

Ms Howard-Taylor, however, is also a respected senator in her own right, bringing him important votes in the key county of Bong, and along with President Sirleaf is one of few powerful women in Liberian public life.

Mr Weah is married to Clar Weah, and his son, Timothy, signed a professional football contract with Paris Saint-Germain in July.

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Why ANC ‘unity votes’ to decide Ramaphosa vs Dlamini-Zuma duel

Posted PETER DUBE in Pretoria

on  Wednesday, December 13   2017 at  11:04

It’s game on as the African National Congress prepares to go to a crucial elective congress from December 16 and the scramble for “unity votes” begins.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is in pole position in the race to replace President Jacob Zuma as party leader ahead of his main rival, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Ramaphosa got approval from five provinces while his opponent’s candidature was endorsed by four provinces.

During the branch and provincial meetings, Mpumalanga, the second biggest ANC region, had 223 “spoilt ballots.” These belong to branches that abstained from endorsing either of the leading candidates and said they were backing “unity.”

Dr Dlamini-Zuma received 123 nominations while Mr Ramaphosa got 117.

Come under fire

As intense lobbying begins, the two candidates will go all out to win over voting delegates from the branches that voted “unity

Ironically, the chairperson of ANC Mpumalanga, David Mabuza — popularly known as DD — is a leading nominee for the deputy president’s position. According to reports, the vote for “unity” was done on the instruction of Mr Mabuza. In defence of his branches, he said: “I am willing to sacrifice myself for the sake of unity.”

As things stand, it is not clear on whose slate he stands because of the puzzling “unity” votes. He has come under fire for allegedly coercing branches to vote for the non-existent “unity” candidate.

“Mabuza is extremely influential in Mpumalanga; he runs the province with an iron fist and will use that to further his political ambitions. He coerced branches to vote for this unity so he can leverage this swing vote,” said a South African newspaper editor.

Presidential candidate Matthews Phosa claims he has proof that members were told to vote for unity. “We have videos of people saying to delegates that they must vote for unity. That’s influencing them. Who is unity? We don’t know the membership, branch or address of unity. It’s a mythical creation of David Mabuza.”

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ANC national executive committee member Nomvula Mokonyane also demanded that those who voted for unity explain why they did not nominate an actual candidate.

Mr Mabuza, who also serves as Mpumalanga premier, got the highest nominations for the deputy president’s position ahead of two fringe presidential candidates — Lindiwe Sisulu and Zweli Mkhize.

Some say keeping everyone in suspense could be an attempt by Mabuza to secure the best position for himself.

They reckon he is playing coy in order to first see which way the scales are tipping between the two camps in order to then negotiate the deputy president position for himself on the winning slate.

Political administration student Siyanda Ntuli in Pretoria, a follower of ANC politics, is also of the view that Mr Mabuza is playing the long game.

Become president

“He is positioning himself now for deputy president to ensure that he will become president of South Africa six years from now. But what he knows, for sure, is that he can only become president of the country in 2024 if the ANC does not split in the interim.”

Mr Ntuli is convinced that the Mpumalanga boss could turn out kingmaker in the presidential race, as well as use the “unity votes” as leverage for the ANC’s No.2 position.

“With the second biggest province and more than 200 ‘unity’ delegates behind him, he could influence who becomes the next president of the ANC,” he said.

He, however, believes Mr Mabuza far better for his own ambitions by going for Dr Dlamini-Zuma.

“She is a woman and considering the pressure from the gender lobby in the ANC, it will work out pretty well to have a man as her deputy. On the other hand, Ramaphosa has identified a woman as his preferred deputy — so this would make it difficult for Mabuza to get his preferred position on his slate,” said Mr Ntuli.

For two terms

Political analyst Thulani Ndlovu’s take is that Mr Mabuza is likely choose Dr Dlamini-Zuma because that will fast-track his presidential ambitions.

Mr Ndlovu says if Dr Dlamini-Zuma wins the 2019 election, she will be in her 70s and will almost certainly be president for just one term.

“DD will only have to wait in the wings for a maximum of six years. The much younger Ramaphosa is much more likely to go for two terms and Mabuza will know that a lot can happen in 11 years that could scupper his plans,” said Mr Ndlovu.

Now, the onus is on Dr Dlamini-Zuma and Mr Ramaphosa to consolidate their numbers using the “unity votes.” And the man carrying the key to those votes is DD.

So, besides Mr Mabuza being the kingmaker of either Mr Ramaphosa or Dr Dlamini-Zuma, he is also paving his own way to ascension.

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Tale of returnees from the Libyan slave market

Posted MOHAMMED MOMOH in Abuja

on  Wednesday, December 6   2017 at  11:05

More than 6,000 Nigerians have been deported from Libya this year and no fewer than 400,000 others were still held up in the North African country where slave trade and criminality have taken over.

Authorities also say also that no fewer than 1,200 Nigerians died this year, in different but invariably controversial circumstances, and many others were unaccounted for in their bid to cross the Libya desert to the Mediterranean and then Europe.

Until the conscious efforts by the government and agencies, such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), to repatriate distressed Nigerians in Libya, little was known of a thriving slave trade in black persons.

A gang of Nigerian human traffickers, in collusion with their Libyan collaborators, have made the criminal act a thriving business.

Human dignity

Although Arab countries have a tradition of slavery, Libya has over the years respected human dignity as it aimed to be leader of Africa, until the fall of Col Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The country has since never been the same again. It is today enveloped in turmoil and is the home to more than one government. One is, however, backed by the United Nations.

The slavery and human trafficking situation has brought global attention to Libya.

The accounts of some of the returnees were heart-rending, but now flowing freely, thanks to the age of communication where nothing good or bad can be hidden for long.

Nigerian deportees have told of how they were sold into slavery by, among others, their own Nigerian brothers and sisters.

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Many of them were sold for as little as $400 each, besides the indignity they suffered, including rape, extortion and torture.

Mr Sunday Anyaegbunam, who left Nigeria in April 2017, with his wife narrated: “The Nigerians selling people in Libya are more wicked than many of the Arabs. I have never seen people so heartless as the Nigerians who bought and sold me.

"There are many of them in Agadez and Sabha, who are making so much money from selling their own people. But there are other West Africans doing the business too. When you approach them and say 'please, my brother, help me', they would tell you:

'No brother in the jungle'.

Miss Loveth Ekumabo, 25, a returnee from Edo in southern Nigeria, blamed her father's attempted incestuous act for her decision to flee to Libya.

Her fate could best be likened to the love triangle in Ola Rotimi's; The gods are not to blame. Buther case was akin to jumping from the fire to the frying pan.

Forced labour

In just a few months of her sojourn, she experienced untold bitterness and forced labour in faraway North Africa country.

Ekumabo, now pregnant, is one of the hundreds of returnees the Nigerian government was trying to re-integrate into society.

Apart from the traumatic experience during the seven-month sojourn, Ekumabo may have to live with the pain of not knowing the father of her unborn baby.

Foka Fotsi, a Cameroonian, who was trafficked twice, said those in charge of one of the places where he was held in Libya included Ghanaians and Nigerians.

Fotsi's story corroborated the testimony that one Charles, a Nigerian, was the trafficking kingpin.

“There is torture like I’ve never seen. They hit you with wooden bats, with iron bars,” he said.

“They hang you from the ceiling by (your) arms and legs and then throw you down to the floor. They swing you and throw you against the wall, over and over again, ten times.

The mayhem

“They are not human beings. They are the devil personified.”

Ms Christelle Timdi, said: “I saw it with my own eyes,” narrating how she saw a Senegalese man buying an African migrant.

The US North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) intervention to remove Gaddafi, who they described as the “mad dog of the Middle East”, resulted into the mayhem that has since got the better of the once stable Libya.

As a self-styled pan-Africanist, Gaddafi encouraged closer relations with other African nations, leading to many people from other countries living and working in Libya.

Today; anything was possible in Libya because there was no responsible government in charge. Libya is indeed a jungle in the hands of armed militants, the Islamic State, tribal gangs and an interim authority.

In November, 26 Nigerian girls were reported drowned while trying to cross into Italy. But Nigerians were also involved in the trafficking and dehumanisation of their own compatriots.

Judicial enquiries

The UN-backed Libyan government said it was investigating the stories and has promised to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) said it would not take lightly the maltreatment of its citizens in northern Africa.

Ecows Commission President Marcel Alain de Souza issued the warning while presenting the Status Report on the State of the Community to the Second Ordinary Session of the regional parliament in Abuja.

Following the report, parliamentarians raised concerns over efforts made by the bloc to investigate reports on African migrants being maltreated and sold into slavery in some North African countries.

The commission’s president, however, called for thorough interrogation of such reports and judicial enquiries to ensure that perpetrators of acts of abuse were brought to justice.

He said Ecowas had commenced the assessment of the situation and sought assistance from the international community to repatriate and reintegrate citizens.


He also reiterated that there were several measures by the 15-member bloc to engage the youth to curb the illegal migration.

“We do not have enough funds to go to Libya and bring them, so we have written to the International Organisation for Migration for immediate and urgent assistance."

Nigeria’s National Council for Women Societies (NCWS) condemned the continued violence against women and children in Libya and Italy, describing it as “man’s inhumanity to man”.

The President of the Council, Mrs Gloria Shoda, said it would not fold its hands and watch women and children being brutalised all over the world.

The recent African Union and European Union (EU) summit in Abidjan also set a goal of immediately repatriating 3,800 migrants languishing in a camp near Tripoli.

Social amenities

“It is a step in the right direction,” IOM Europe Director Eugenio Ambrosi said of the AU decision.

“It is a little bit too much to think it will solve the slavery issue, but it would definitely mitigate (it) to some extent,” Mr Ambrosi said.

Nigeria has resolved that all its citizens stranded in Libya and other parts would be brought home and be rehabilitated.

President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to reduce the number of Nigerians heading for Europe illegally through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, by providing basic social amenities such as education, healthcare and food security at home.

President Buhari said it was appalling that “some Nigerians were being sold like goats for few dollars in Libya’’.

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The trouble with Kenya: Old order is dead, but new one is yet to be born


on  Monday, December 4   2017 at  18:09

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Uhuru Kenyatta re-election as president in the poll held on October 26 this year has put an end to what some feared was shaping up to be an infinite regress of election-petition-nullify-election again.

That finality will neither calm the incendiary passions inflamed by the August 8 election nor bring the protagonists, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, any closer in what looks set to become a full-blown political crisis.

The good news, if that, is that the end of the court drama leaves politics where it was on October 26.

The bad news is that the court’s even-handedness, that is, splitting the judicial losses one apiece for the ruling Jubilee and opposition Nasa, hardens each side’s position and probably makes the standoff intractable, setting the stage for an even more controversial election in 2022.

On its part, the court has won few new friends this election season.

Critics of its first decision – including Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto – dismissed the judges as crooks and Nasa flunkies.

Those who dislike the second one – including some NGOs – think that it exposes the court as a cynical confederacy of elites who have now baulked at destabilising the status quo. The more charitable, like Nasa, say that the judges were intimidated by Jubilee to give a compliant decision.

In truth, the political crisis in Kenya is likely to deepen and no one, not Kenyatta or Odinga, not even the Supreme Court, can claim victory. Here is why.

Agony and ecstasy

Though Kenyatta seemed as ecstatic about the recent Supreme Court decision as Odinga was about the one made on September 1, in truth both knew from the very first that neither the standoff nor the polarised nature of Kenya’s politics was ever not going to be settled by arguments in court.

Odinga went to court to vindicate his belief that the election was stolen, not to solve the underlying political problem.

Once he won his victory he had to boycott the repeat election unless the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) made changes that meaningfully addressed the illegalities that the court found.

Without that, Odinga could not participate in a repeat election and convincingly allege fraud again. By winning the petition challenging the first election, Odinga raised the ethical bar for the repeat election. But by raising that bar, he undercut his own ability to participate in that election if the bar were not cleared.

It is now Kenyatta’s turn to be jubilant. He must know that the repeat election was deeply flawed but the Supreme Court decision removes part, if not all, of the sting in Odinga’s claim that the election on the 26th was a sham and illegitimate.

It also helps him and his party to shift discussion from that election’s political legitimacy to its legal legitimacy. To make that narrative plausible, he must now reaffirm the independence of the judiciary.

The Supreme Court thus finds stranded in a bizarre no-man’s land, praised for its independence and standing on principle for making two decisions that, in effect, cancel each other out.

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The political effect is that the protagonists will remain stuck in the rut and their mutually hostile supporters will stay angry and militant.

Odinga, if he means to remain true to his base, has no choice but to escalate his campaign against Kenyatta, who must, in turn, remain intransigent. His olive branch to Nasa on inauguration day was telling: it was a brusque, iron-fist-in-a-velvet-glove affair, more warning than hand-of-friendship.

In truth, it is hard to see how the two can find a meeting point. What Kenyatta could offer Odinga, Odinga couldn’t accept without risking the wrath of his supporters. What Odinga would want, Kenyatta could not offer without endangering the deputy president’s prospects in 2022 and facing the hostility of his base.

Why is this so? Any deal-making between Kenyatta and Odinga is now hostage to succession politics.

The deal-maker in Jubilee is William Ruto, a man with a Florentine instinct for political intrigue. Yet Ruto’s interests will inevitably be damaged by any deal that Kenyatta makes with Odinga, especially if the deal involves power sharing.

Moral claim

Do the calculations. Kenyatta is serving his last term. Much of what he could offer Odinga would entail positions in government, that may involve changes to the law, including perhaps even the Constitution.

There are two problems with that. First, Odinga has been here before, in 2008. He wants neither the label of “career Prime Minister” nor an unrewarding climbdown from his elevated moral claim that the August 8 election was a fraud.

His supporters have taken a serious beating and 62 people have died in a brutal police campaign against Nasa. Odinga’s argument for an interim government followed by a truly honest election looks like the minimum he can sell to his base.

Kenyatta on the other hand cannot sell an interim government followed by a mid-term election to his base, nor could he, even if he wanted to, persuade Ruto, who has his eyes firmly on the presidency in 2022, to accept a government of national unity in which positions (and any new ones that might be negotiated with Nasa) are shared equally between government and opposition.

A negotiated settlement would be a three-way sharing of power, between Kenyatta, Ruto and Odinga. Everyone gains but Ruto: Kenyatta wins the calm he needs to work on legacy projects and Odinga worms his way back into government.

Mr Ruto’s hand for 2022 is completely weakened especially because the only way to create room for Odinga’s team would be to sack some of Ruto’s allies.

Ironically, then, even though Ruto and Odinga are instinctual politicians and inveterate deal-makers, in this crisis that seems made to order for their talents, there are no mutual interests.

Worst-case scenario

What then? The worst-case scenario is that the country stumbles its way to 2022 and holds yet another divisive election.

In the meantime, the economy takes a beating as revenues shrink and debt repayments bite. Kenyatta could limp his way to the end of term but then he would have no legacy. He has weakened Kenya’s democracy partly on promises of development. If the economy fails, he cannot redeem that pledge.

The best-case scenario is that a new coalition of leaders emerges, perhaps from among the governors, the business community, the clergy and civil society that refocuses debate on what creates Kenya’s fractious elections: An ethnically divided society and its winner-take-all presidential system.

Studies show that in deeply divided societies, political power is a do-or-die affair: It determines not just who is included or excluded but also who gets pubic goods and services. Given this, ethnic groups cannot separate electoral defeat from communal exclusion and economic loss.

Bargain for power

In parliamentary systems, ethnic elites form coalitions that bargain for power and opportunities for their people, which enhances feelings of justice and inclusion. In Kenya, exclusion is also territorial because identity groups live in defined regions. This must be fixed if Kenya wants to make elections less deadly.

Thus far, the politics: What of the Supreme Court? There are those who think, especially in civil society, that this case has irredeemably damaged the Supreme Court.

That is a supposition grounded more in hope than fact. In truth, the Court’s unpredictability has probably permanently unsettled the political class. At some level, that is a good thing. The idea that the Supreme Court is a toady of the government of the day, as the 2013 petition led many to believe, has been proved false.

When the court nullified the election. the reactions on both sides were hysterical: The one of uncontrollable joy, the other of unbridled rage. It was inevitable that if the pendulum swung the other way, the two sides would trade positions but the emotional intensity of their different reactions would stay the same.

An incoherent claim

The Court was certainly right to reverse the central holding of the 2013 presidential petition and to hold that an election that has not been held in substantial compliance with the law is no election at all and must be nullified.

Court critics of the first decision carped that elections are about numbers. That is an incoherent claim even on its own terms. Even those critics know that though elections be about numbers, only numbers that come out of a process authorised by law count.

If not, then there is nothing to stop an electoral body from conjuring up results out of a telephone directory or from the headstones at the cemetery. Critics will now wait to see whether the Court remains true to the reasons that it gave for nullifying the election of of August 8.

Of interest to them are the substantial irregularities that they claim that the IEBC committed on October 26. Some of these irregularities are much the same as those that were involved in the earlier case. But there are also new ones.

There is IEBC’s confusing stance on the 25 or so constituencies, mainly in Nyanza (western Kenya), in which no elections took place. The Commission initially reported that it had postponed elections in these constituencies. Later, it turned out that those elections had actually been cancelled, two actions with vastly different legal consequences.

Polling station

As in August, there are discrepancies in the results shown in the forms from the polling station as against the forms at the constituency level and then again between the results in both sets of forms and those posted on the Commission’s public portal.

Finally, IEBC did not explain why the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) kits have logs for days other than polling day, the only day on which the kits should have been active. Those who don’t trust the results from October 26 think that these irregularities prove systematic fraud and that the Court, by unanimously upholding the second election, must inevitably reverse the reasoning it gave for its September 1 decision nullifying the election of August 8.

Without pre-empting what the Court will say in its full judgment, the critics are missing an important point. It was always going to be much harder to nullify a second election, this for two reasons:

One, the Constitution is not explicit about what happens if there is a second invalidation. Most people assume that the process is cyclical, that is, that the Court must keep nullifying illegal elections until a lawful election is held. But the Constitution does not say so explicitly.

Why should the Court assume a potentially infinite regression on a legal question this momentous? Moreover, this time round, the Court would have had other reasons for self-doubt.

They had been viciously attacked in the much clearer first case, what would have happened this time? And what would they have ordered once they nullified the second election?

Second election

Two, the critics overlooked the fact that once the Court nullified a first election, the threshold of illegality in that case would become the benchmark for the future. This means that a future election was unlikely to be nullified unless the Court believed that the illegalities had reached, even surpassed, that benchmark.

Lawyers involved in the second petition should have known that a second election would not be nullified unless the illegalities and irregularities met the threshold of the election of August 8. On the whole, the Supreme court is pretty much where it was on the August 8: Trusted and distrusted in equal measure.

What outlook, then? The overall picture is a grim one. There is no quick resolution on the horizon. Nasa’s economic boycotts and the sporadic protests are likely to continue. Even if unsuccessful, these will become a headache and the effects on the economy will be significant.

The economic boycotts, for instance, are already hurting, even though they are haphazard. In the medium term, boycotts will spawn uncertainty in boardrooms and force directors in target companies to play politics by managing perceptions on both sides.

The protests will get worse if the economy underperforms, which now seems inevitable. At that point, it won’t matter who organises the protests, Nasa or labour unions.

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Liberian economy struggles as election crisis drags on

Posted ZOOM DOSSO in Monrovia

on  Sunday, December 3   2017 at  16:10

Businesses in Liberia's dual-currency economy are feeling the pinch as customers stay home and the exchange rate keeps climbing in the absence of a resolution to the country's disputed presidential election.

"Nobody wants to buy, people are keeping their money," said Ruth Wollie, one of many women market traders who make up an important voting bloc for Liberian politicians.

"For us to sell 1000 LD ($8) per day is very difficult," she added at her stall in Monrovia.

Liberia has enjoyed 12 years of peace under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but hopes for an economic revival after back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 were dashed by slumping commodity prices hitting key exports of iron ore and rubber, and the impact of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis which left some 4,800 people dead.

The selection

Now an electoral crisis has compounded the problem, with conditions becoming intolerable in a nation hugely reliant on informal trading for income.
It began in late October, when Vice-President Joseph Boakai and opposition leader Charles Brumskine finished second and third in the October 10 election, but alleged "massive fraud" afterwards.

The allegations, however, were rejected by the National Elections Commission (NEC), which found that the two parties failed to provide "indubitable evidence" as required by the constitution that the vote was tainted by fraud.

The parties then appealed to the Supreme Court, which is due to rule next week on whether to reject Mr Boakai and Mr Brumskine's complaint and allow the runoff to go ahead, or call new elections.

The process has delayed the selection of a Sirleaf successor for nearly a month, as Mr Boakai was due to face top-placing candidate and former international footballer George Weah on November 7.


"We were expecting a run-off and they took themselves and carried themselves to court," market trader Beatrice Harris said.

"They were thinking that it was for our (own) good, but it was not for our good — only for themselves.

"If they love us as Liberians, they will understand what it means to come to the market and can't even find a meal for your child".

Ms Harris added that politicians are making the people "suffer".

Legal currencies

Mr Christopher Pewee, a shoe seller in Paynesville, said the situation had "stagnated".

"Investors are holding back investments, and the demand for US dollars is high. That's why the rate has climbed from 110 to 130 Liberian dollars to the US dollar," he said, surrounded by brightly coloured flip-flops.

"The election is on hold, the businesses are also on hold. We don't know what is going on".

Liberia has two legal currencies: the Liberian dollar and the US dollar.

The country also imports the vast majority of its food, and wholesale imports and taxes are payable in US dollars only.


"If you don't have US dollars to buy, the price will be increased and the rate is 130 (Liberian dollars) now. We are just asking the government to at least speed up the process," market trader Ruth Wollie complained.

Trader Annie Saah said "most people are afraid" that the situation will devolve into violence.

"So they're keeping their money just in case of anything, to sustain their families," she added.

President Sirleaf has urged a speedy resolution to the dispute for the sake of the economy.

Be sanctioned

"Our economy is under stress due to the delay of the electoral process," President Sirleaf said on November 7.

"We have to do all we can to save our democracy and allow a smooth transition".

Liberian economist Ansu Sonii, who is also campaign manager for Mr Weah's Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) said investors tended to "play safe and hold on" in a nation with few safeguards on their money, and with the civil war and sanctions never far from memory.

"They want to know if that person is going to introduce a policy that will interfere with their investments or even undo" them, or even "whether that person will be sanctioned by the international community," Mr Sonii told AFP. (AFP)

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Fleeing DR Congolese tell of rape and murder

Posted OBERT SIMWANZA in Nchelenge, Zambia

on  Thursday, November 9   2017 at  10:49

Recounting horrific stories of rape and murder allegedly by government soldiers, thousands of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have sought safety on the Zambian side of Lake Mweru.

About 6,000 Congolese residents have fled across the border since late August, triggering an emergency response from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) which has struggled to provide basic food rations and shelter.

DR Congo's huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, has increased this year.

The UNHCR said that the unrest had caused the largest influx into Zambia for the past five years, with many refugees blaming DR Congo President Joseph Kabila's troops for the worst of the violence.

"I witnessed an incident where one pregnant woman was raped, her stomach ripped open and the baby killed before they killed her," Ms Kaimba Kazili, 39, a former subsistence farmer, told AFP at the Kenani transit camp in Nchelenge, northern Zambia.

Boys and a girl

"It is not safe to live in Congo any more because government soldiers are killing people," she said.

On her journey to the camp, Ms Kazili gave birth to triplets Ari, Kalangila and Kanaila — two boys and a girl — who were born on August 20, before she finally arrived in Zambia on September 14.

"It was not an easy thing but luckily we found a man driving a minibus who gave us a lift," said Ms Kazili, originally from the Kivu region of DR Congo.

The triplets were shown to Zambian President Edgar Lungu when he visited the camp last week accompanied by UNCHR officials and reporters.

But President Lungu had an uncompromising message for the refugees.

"You have run away from lawlessness, so don't bring lawlessness here," he told them.

"We have laws which should be obeyed by everyone. If we jail you, when you finish your jail, we will send you back to Congo."

Despite Lungu's harsh words, Ms Pierrine Aylara, the UNHCR head in Zambia, told the president that she wanted "to applaud your hospitality towards those displaced by war and conflict".

For those in the camp, the only priorities have been the safety of their lives and getting enough to eat.

"Thank God that we all arrived safely as a family with my husband and all the four children," said Ms Mauno Rukogo, 42.

"I will never go back to Congo because war is tough. President Kabila's government was supposed to protect citizens but is killing its people."

Inter-ethnic violence

Ms Rukogo said she had been repeatedly displaced inside DR Congo, where the eastern region has been roiled by conflict for more than two decades, before she fled to Zambia on September 9.

The UNCHR said the refugees have fled inter-ethnic violence and clashes between the army and myriad militia groups, particularly in Haut Katanga and Tanganyika provinces since end of August.

Earlier this year, security worsened sharply in the Pweto area of Haut Katanga, which shares a border with Zambia.

Many refugees said that they feel safer in Zambia but that food rations were scarce and children were not getting enough to eat.

"We are also asking for medical clinics for the children," Ms Rukogo added, with rampant malaria and diarrhoea posing major health problems.

The UNHCR has set up tents and grass-thatched shelters at the 140-acre site, as well as sunk two boreholes and nearly 300 pit latrines.

An agency official said that they provide 400 grammes of maize and 60 grammes of rice a day for each family, as well as other food supplies.

"I saw my wife being killed by government troops and I only just managed to run away with my three children," said Mr Minga wa Minga, a 40-year-old school teacher.

"I had to keep going until I found some Congolese heading to Zambia," he added.

"The UN have described the situation as a humanitarian crisis but let them do something to stop President Kabila from destroying the country."

President Kabila failed to step down after his second and final term last December.

Elections were re-scheduled for this year, but have now been announced for December 2018.

DR Congo's military spokesman in Kinshasa could not be reached for comment on the refugee's accusations. (AFP)

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Will Lake Chad withstand the onslaught?

Posted MOHAMMED MOMOH in Abuja

on  Tuesday, November 7   2017 at  12:21

The mayhem unleashed on the people of northeast Nigeria by the Boko Haram since 2009 seems to have added to the suffering of millions of inhabitants who have been impoverished by the shrinking Lake Chad Basin.

No fewer than 18 million people in the Lake Chad region of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon have had to endure poverty occasioned by their inability to harvest the water resources which hitherto had been their main source of livelihood.

Beside the irrigation and agricultural benefits, the lake also provides access to aquaculture and potable water for both human and livestock.

In 47 years, this life saving lake has shrank from 25,000 square kilometres to 2,000 square kilometers. It is 10 per cent of what it was 47 years ago.

Very expensive

The Chairman of the Nigerian Committee on Climate Change, Mr Abba Bukar-Ibrahim, said the water in Lake Chad had receded over 260 kilometres, affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

Mr Ibrahim, said: “Previously, every day lorry loads of thousands of fish departed from that area to different parts of the world, but these days, you hardly see a lorry load leaving that region with fish. The fishermen have to go very far into the water to make any catches, which makes it very expensive.

“We cannot sit back on this, it is already a crisis situation," he said.

The Senator wondered how long it would take before the lake dried up completely.

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The crisis, he said, affected six countries directly, while several others shouldered the indirect consequences, including the migration of people in search of alternative livelihoods.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr Stephen O'Brien, said the human suffering created by the shrinking lake was better told by the migration, displacement and the relocation of the affected people.

Mr O'Brien said more than 9 million people were seeking refuge outside the lake Chad region.

"If we do not act now, the human suffering will only get more extreme. We have to stop this, we can with the will, money, urgency and coordination."

Mr O'Brien said more than nine million people were in need of urgent food aid in the region, saying seven million of them lived in Nigeria.

Several public outcries aimed at saving Lake Chad and promoting socio-economic development in the area were expressed through 14 summits of heads of states and governments and 58 sessions of council of ministers of the riparian states.

Placed in jeopardy

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, while participating in the High-Level Segment of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reiterated the need to recharge the shrinking waters of Lake Chad to avert an environmental disaster along the basin.

But he warned that the four most affected countries could not muster the tremendous financial resources required to turn around the dire situation.

According to President Buhari, millions of people whose daily livelihood had been placed in jeopardy were looking up to their leaders to bail them out.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with President Buhari and announced that her government had set aside $21billion (18bn Euro) to assist the recharging of the Lake Chad, through the diversion of rivers from the Congo Basin into it.

She noted that the $58 billion (50bn Euro) project was a great priority to Germany and Nigeria.

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was laying a five-year Investment Plan on the proposed water transfer project.

In December 2016, the Commission and PowerChina International Group Limited (PowerChina) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a technical and financial assistance towards the water transfer from the Congo Basin to Lake Chad.

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The MoU was to establish the basis on which the parties would carry out further research of the Lake Chad Basin Water Transfer Project and other future projects in accordance with the Lake Chad Basin Water Charter, national legislations, regulations and practices of member countries.

The core idea is to increase the water quantity in Lake Chad, improve the flow conditions, alleviate poverty within the basin through socio-economic activities, meet the energy needs the surroundings areas and conduct an in-depth environmental impact assessment.

Nigeria’s Water Resources minister Suleiman Adamu said the project had the potential of transferring 50 billion cubic meters annually to Lake Chad through a series of dams in the DR Congo, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

Besides, if fully implemented, it would lead to the development of a series of irrigated areas for crops, or livestock over 50,000 to 70,000 km2 area in the Sahel zone in Chad, north-east Nigeria, northern Cameroon and Niger.

Water treasures

Mr Adamu added that it would also create an expanded economic zone by providing new infrastructure of development in agriculture, industries, transportation and electric production, affecting up to 12 African nations.

He disclosed that the Federal Government had allocated $28 million as its contribution to the Lake Chad Basin Commission in the 2017 fiscal proposal of the Ministry of Water Resources.

The Director-General, Mother of Earth Foundation, Mr Nnimmo Bassey, urged Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, the Central African Republic and Libya to apply best practices in tackling the problems in the Lake Chad Basin in order to avert more conflicts and violence in the region.

“So, the countries in the Lake Chad Basin Commission need to sit down together and look at ways of enforcing best practices to maintain and protect the water treasures that we have,’’ he said.

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Flawed election could turn out to be Uhuru Kenyatta’s poisoned chalice

Posted WACHIRA MAINA in Nairobi

on  Sunday, October 29   2017 at  18:04

In 1966, President Jomo Kenyatta amended the Constitution to force 29 members of the National Assembly and the Senate who had defected from the ruling party, Kanu, to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s Kenya People’s Union, (KPU), into a series of by-elections that came to be called “the little general election”.

Kanu won a majority of the now vacant seats and though KPU won the popular vote, Jomo Kenyatta was able to leverage the result to further amend the Constitution and, eventually, decimate the opposition.

Fifty years later, his son President Uhuru Kenyatta, lacking the legal means to force his opposition into a similar debacle, rushed headlong into an election boycotted by his principal opponent, Raila Odinga, and unwittingly converted what should have been a coronation into a referendum on his government.

The results — already controversial because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has results from areas that never voted – will almost certainly damage and weaken Uhuru’s political authority beyond repair.

This was supposed to be the election that buried Odinga’s political career like the little general election buried his father’s. Instead, it will realise none Uhuru’s hopes and bring about all the consequences that a more reflective leader would have foreseen.

Shrunken electoral mandate

First, it will bolster Odinga’s political legitimacy as it retrospectively undermines Uhuru’s earlier claim that he had overwhelmingly won the election of August 8.

Second, it will strengthen deputy president William Ruto, as Kenyatta becomes ever more reliant on him.

Third, a weakened Uhuru must become more authoritarian and yet, without the reservoirs of legitimacy that come from an electoral mandate, he will find the population increasingly resistant. The upshot will be that what was initially a political crisis will metastasise, becoming a constitutional crisis that must undermine the very stability that the business community craved when they argued for an early election.

Central to Kenyatta’s problems is his shrunken electoral mandate. The final turnout figures have not been announced. The chair of the IEBC, Wafula Chebukati, had initially announced a voter turnout of 48 per cent.

No sooner had he done that than he tried to walk that number back — saying it was “a best estimate” — as results from monitors in the field showed that this was patently false. On the most optimistic outlook, the real number will probably be nearer or lower than 40 per cent. If that turns out to be the case, the implications are devastating.

In the first election on August 8, five out of every six registered voters turned out to vote. A 40 per cent — or lower — turnout means that less than three out of six voters have come out to vote barely two months later.

This raises six problems. One, the vote is essentially a Kikuyu/Kalenjin vote, a hugely unsettling political fact in a country of 44 ethnic groups.

Two, voter turnout among the Kikuyus and the Kalenjin did not come anywhere near what it was in August. Though electoral studies show that such a turnout is normal in electoral reruns, Kenyatta’s opponents will seize on this as proof of, at best, growing fatigue and at worst, dwindling support for Kenyatta in his own backyard.

Three, Odinga will spin the low turnout as his doing, evidence, he will say, of a country responding to his call to boycott the election.

Divisive figures

Four, it will leave Kenya even more divided than it was before: Kenyatta has been as divisive a figure as his main opponent Odinga. This election has sharpened those divisions and Kenyatta’s headstrong — some would say hubristic — refusal to even consider putting off the vote to increase cross-party trust and improve the environment, will have curdled political sentiment, perhaps irretrievably.

Five, the result will reenergise Odinga and, thus pumped up, he will be more intransigent to any overtures from Kenyatta.

Six, and most unsettling from an ethnic voting point, the result in central Kenya exposes Kenyatta’s tenuous hold on the Kikuyu. The turnout supports what many always feared, Kenyatta’s base is anti-Raila rather than pro-Uhuru: Without Odinga in the running, they were not motivated to vote.

Ruto, Kenyatta’s presumptive heir, will note this with alarm. Can Kenyatta really deliver the Kikuyu vote to him in 2022?

Few unattractive options

Unfortunately, Kenyatta has few options now and none are attractive. This has exposed his soft underbelly, serving up a lame duck second term even if he is able to hold on to the end of his presidency. That has three implications, each of which he will find unsettling:

One, looking at these numbers any Nasa (opposition coalition) leader Kenyatta reaches out to with promises of goodies so as to outflank Odinga will be coy. Is it worthwhile to accept a position in an administration at a time when that seems so obviously like a kiss of death?

Two, that Kenyatta is serving his last term will fray his own support within Jubilee, a party teeming with young politicians with political gifts to burn and years of political life ahead. If they see Kenyatta as a liability — as these numbers say that he is — their support will be mostly equivocal and low key, all geared to wait out Kenyatta’s five years as they consolidate their experience.

Three, unable to co-opt the opposition, Kenyatta will be thrown back on his allies, principally Ruto, on whom he must increasingly rely to get his measures through parliament. Ruto in turn will have two concerns: First, a legitimate worry — in the wake of this election — that he cannot rely on Kenyatta to deliver the Kikuyu block and second, a realisation that though another Kikuyu/Kalenjin alliance remains numerically attractive, fronting it in 2022 will be fatally toxic in terms of ethnic relations in Kenya.

At a minimum, Ruto must see that any winning future coalition must reach beyond Mt Kenya and the central highlands of the Rift Valley.

Kenyatta has just thrown his deputy a curve-ball: Ruto must now try to keep his current coalition in power even as he cobbles up a wider coalition that can win in 2022.

Political business

This dual play is both a boon and a bane from where Kenyatta sits: In keeping the current coalition together Ruto will be helping keep Kenyatta in power but whatever he does to build a new coalition for 2022 will undermine him.

And then there are Kenyatta’s “political business” allies, the oligarchs who finance his politics and the real power behind the throne. Many will already have been thinking ahead, scouting for politicians to fund for 2022 as Kenyatta’s second term ends. This election result must have shocked them. Some will recalculate their risks; some may even defect — if not to the opposition then to the heir apparent, Ruto — especially if the crisis deepens.

In a way, this was inevitable: In five years, Kenyatta has done everything to undermine institutions and empower the “contractor elite” — the oligarchs — around him.

That he must soon find that very elite fickle in their support is his own doing. Two thousand years ago Aristotle presciently said that democracy — together with its institutions — was safer than oligarchy because oligarchies suffer a double risk.

First, oligarchs often fall out with each other and, second— and more usually — they invariably fall out with the people. A Kenyatta who cannot deliver the goods is ripe for betrayal by his allies. Thus abandoned, he will be further weakened if the opposition confronts him with violent upheavals.

Double crisis bites

Some will think that Kenyatta’s now fragile coalition can survive the coming turbulence. Perhaps that is so but it seems unlikely. Part of the problem is that the administration is facing deeper problems that will feed Kenyatta’s political nightmares. The economy is not doing well.

The political uncertainty has had an effect on it to be sure, but then so has the weather, with its knock-on effect on food production. Our growing debt and its onerous interest repayments will eventually bite. Given the administration’s appetite for expensive debt — a few other costly loans are lined up — there is more trouble to come.

Juggling a tanking economy and fissiparous politics would tax a leader with better political skills and a more equable temper than Kenyatta, who started out desperate to be liked in 2013 and now seems keener to be feared. Without political resources to draw down and short of economic performance to brag about, he will — at least in the short run — turn to repression, becoming more authoritarian as the double crisis bites.

Unfortunately, the authoritarian option is never a good one. First, autocracy invariably solves all political conflicts violently. Second, its success depends on the coherence of the ruling elite. Let’s explore each of these two problems.

Using violence to solve political problems is both inefficient and unpredictable. It is inefficient because it means significant investments in surveillance and control. It is unpredictable because what the state can do, the public can do too.

The dramatic collapse of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Caeusescu in December 1989 is a case in point. The dictator had run a vicious and violent regime. In the face of economic crisis, he imposed a severe austerity programme that eventually provoked riots in the town of Timisoara, Romania’s third largest city and a key economic and cultural centre.

Christmas Day

Caeusescu called for a rally in Bucharest, the capital city, intending to condemn the protestors and check the spread of discontent. The crowd grew unruly and demanded that the dictator step down. Caeusescu unleashed his dreaded security forces, the Securitate, on them but in the week that followed protests flared up across the country.

At that point, the security forces baulked at shooting at the unarmed public and Caeusescu then fled Bucharest with his wife, deputy prime minister Elena Caeusescu, on December 22, 1989. Three days later he was arrested, summarily tried and executed on Christmas Day.

The rapid collapse of longtime Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011, hot on the heels of violent protests triggered by the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi, a hawker, on December 17, 2010, following economic and political crises, underlines the same lesson.

That brings the second point into play: The coherence of the ruling elite. All regimes must strike some bargain with their supporters, implicitly or explicitly.

Repression — as happened in Romania and Tunisia — forces regime supporters to recalculate the actuarial risk of losing power. Whether repression succeeds over time also depends on the co-operation of the security forces. When there is an economic crisis — such as the one we seem headed into — and the country is sharply and deeply divided, as Kenya was and is now more so, there is a dual risk.

The economic crisis erodes the support of the political elite and the political divisions fragment the security forces into ethnic militia. This means that though Kenyatta may be tempted by the authoritarian option, it is a dangerous and fickle mistress that he will be courting.

Majority rule

Given this, his advisers — who have been criminally inept in the past — may suggest that he tries, instead, a softer version of authoritarianism, what is often called “rule by law” rather than the “rule of law.” According to Javier Corrales’ essay, Autocratic

Legalism in Venezuela this softer authoritarianism has three elements: The use, abuse and non-use of the law in service of the presidency.

Given his legislative majorities, Kenyatta could find this appealing and cost-effective. He has already tried it, with some success, in the recent amendments to the election laws.

In some ways, Kenyatta will be genetically familiar with this instrumental use of the law. His father was a master of it. If the constitution did not give him power to do something that he desired to do, he simply ignored or amended it.

In 1975, for example, he famously amended the Constitution and then backdated the amendment, all so that he could pardon his friend Paul Ngei, who had been barred from a by-election because he had committed an election offence, a crime for which the president could not pardon Ngei with the constitution as it then stood.

The problem with “autocratic legalism” is that it depends on a quiescent judiciary. Right now, there is a coterie of intrepid judges whom Kenyatta cannot bend to his will. These judges are backed by an unforgiving Constitution that, properly interpreted, will nullify the laws Kenyatta may need to achieve his aims.

Autocratic legalism then — and the soft authoritarianism that Kenyatta needs to govern a divided country over which he has lost political control — does not look like a feasible option.

This brings Kenyatta to the place where he was before this election: He urgently needs to talk to Raila Odinga. Ill-advised procrastination and a flawed election have robbed him of his two most precious assets: Initiative and leverage.

And, sadly, Kenya seems set to lose again, as it did the last time a Kenyatta and an Odinga quarrelled.

*Article first published on http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/

Wachira Maina is a constitutional lawyer.