Africa News blog
African business, politics and lifestyle
By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Jan 26 (AlertNet) – Nurto Isak’s food rations are feeding her, her three children, and — she suspects — the militiamen guarding the camp in Mogadishu where she and other uprooted Somalis have taken refuge.
The city is host to more than 180,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who, like Isak, have fled a killer combination of conflict, drought and hunger back home.
Many risk long, difficult journeys to reach the capital, their sights set on the numerous aid agencies that have set up relief operations to hand out food and treat malnutrition there.
Yet many people at various IDP settlements in the war-torn city complain that food aid is not reaching them and accuse local aid workers working for international and Somali NGOs of taking it to line their own pockets.
Nigerian, Kenyan and South African banks have been making forays into the rest of the continent in search of growth so it was interesting to see Angola’s biggest bank opening an office in Johannesburg this month.
Banco Africano de Investimentos, Angola’s biggest bank by deposits, sees the office as a launchpad for ventures further afield in the southern African region as well as in business between Angola and South Africa.
Angola’s banking sector has enjoyed huge growth since the country emerged from a three-decade long civil war in 2002 as one of the world’s fastest growing economies thanks to booming oil production and high oil prices.
In a shock unilateral announcement, the leading south Sudanese party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), withdrew its presidential candidate, Yasir Arman, and said it would also boycott elections on all levels in Darfur.
It paved the way for incumbent President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to win the April 11-18 polls. Arman was viewed as his main challenger, with much of south Sudan’s support – about 25 percent of the 16-million strong electorate.
The return of Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua three months after he left for a Saudi hospital might normally have beeen seen as a sign that a long spell of debilitating uncertainty was over.
But this was no ordinary return for a long absent president with an army band and a red carpet.
Omar Bongo’s name was on an impressive collection of public buildings — the senate, a university and a stadium, to name just a few — by the time he died in June after over 40 years as Gabon’s president.
His son Ali Bongo Ondimba is now keen to make his own mark after winning a disputed election in August.
The list published by Nigeria’s central bank of those who owe money to the banks it has just bailed out makes clear that the situation has already gone well beyond just being a banking crisis.
The list cuts across the business elite and Nigeria’s regions and also includes many politically powerful figures. (And it doesn’t even appear that all those who could have been named as directors of the debtor companies have been identified).
Some Kenyans believe Obama ought to have come “home” first. Others, especially among critics of President Mwai Kibaki’s government, say he has deliberately shunned the country to show U.S. disapproval of rampant corruption and nepotism in political circles here.
Nigeria marks its first 10 years of unbroken civilian rule on Friday after emerging from nearly three decades of uninterrupted military dictatorship on May 29, 1999.
The political elite in Africa’s top oil producer are rolling out the drums to celebrate the milestone. And why not?
Making sure South Africans hold their new government accountable is essential if the country is to succeed under Jacob Zuma, believes Mamphela Ramphele, an anti-apartheid activist and prominent South African businesswoman.
“We underestimated what it means to govern a modern democracy,” she told Reuters. “In that context we have made many mistakes. The first mistake was to conflate the leader, the party, the government and the state. That conflation leads to the undermining of state institutions … and abuse of state resources for party political reasons.”
The Zuma administration’s foreign policy will be determined to a great extent by the struggle to satisfy national needs and demands. These can best be understood if we take into account not only the country’s increasing level of corruption and violent crime, but also high level of expectations from the urban and rural unemployed, the poor and the working class expecting the qualitative improvement in their material conditions.
The Zuma administration will commit itself in practice to the value of continuity in South Africa’s foreign policy. Central to this tradition will be popular foreign policy objectives pursued by South Africa since the end of apartheid.
They include support for peaceful resolution of conflict on the African continent and beyond, support for the regional and continental organisations and integration as well as multilateralism. It will continue with the country’s practical and theoretical call for continental socio-political and economic renaissance or transformation.
South Africa under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki used the African Renaissance to contribute towards the resolution of conflicts in African countries conducive for the operations of its capital and the realisation of the objectives of its socio-economic policy objectives.
It regarded its active participation in conflict resolution as key to peace, security and stability in Africa. It viewed continental socio-economic transformation or renaissance as the process to be achieved through peace and stability creation and consolidation, actions against corruption and implementation of socio-economic policies conducive for the operations of foreign investment.
The Mbeki administration was reluctant to lead Africa in international relations. It called for a further integration of Africa into the global capitalist system and African solidarity and unity to fight what Mbeki refers to as global apartheid and to contribute towards an equitable world.
These two central aspects of South Africa’s foreign policy, focusing firstly on Africa and secondly on developed countries, raised high level of expectations within Africa and the rest of the world and placed its policy on grounds vulnerable to criticism from individuals with different positions and interests in its efforts to serve as a leader of Africa in its transformation and its relations with the rest of the world particularly developed countries.
These problems are a dilemma it faced in its attempts to serve as the representative of Africa to the developed countries and the representative of developed countries in Africa. This policy helped to explain why South Africa under Mbeki was unable to substantiate its declared theoretical position on African Renaissance in practice. It impelled it not to antagonise developed countries in its African Renaissance project and to seek support from weak African countries.
Under Mbeki, South Africa put itself on the level that Africa expected more than it could deliver in resolving Africa’s problems.
It pretended that it could meet requirements of this expectation. It did not substantiate Mbeki’s progressive position that its role in the resolution of the African conflicts should be guided by the struggle to achieve African transformation in the interests of the masses of the people. South Africa remained central to the consolidation of dominance of Africa by developed countries.
The Zuma administration will be a substantial and welcome addition to the struggle against Africa’s problems.
It will use the country as the regional and continental power to criticise African leaders who are enemies of their people and strive for free, independent exercise of foreign policy.
There will be a shift in the direction towards South Africa realising its potential as a centre of independent development on the African continent.
It will be under enormous internal progressive pressure to ensure that the country constitutes a strategic continental threat to the internal and external interests inimical to the interests of the continent and its people.