Obama, the Midterms and Africa–some thoughts from the hinterlands

G. Pascal Zachary has a very interesting take at Africa Works on the possible impact of the US midterm elections for Africa: “For Africans, an Obama defeat at polls can bring help”:

For Africa, an Obama presidency has been a disappointment. Rather than pay attention to the sub-Saharan because of his Kenyan heritage, Barack Obama has gone the other way: giving less attention to Africa than any other region of the world. Partly Obama’s inattention to African affairs reflects the crises of his presidency. Urgent problems are elsewhere. But the situation may be about to change and because of an unlikely reason: the defeat of Obama’s Democratic Party allies in Congress.

Next Tuesday’s polls could deliver a big setback to Obama: loss of control by the Democrats of at least one house of Congress. With the Republicans back in command, Obama will face new pressure on his administration to intervene directly in African affairs, and in ways the president has so far avoided.

A glimpse of the future direction of U.S. policy towards Africa can be seen by looking backwards — to the policies of former President George Bush. For complex reasons, the Bush administration engineered an increase in financial assistance to Africa, chiefly in the form of an enormous outlay — an estimated $80 billion over 10 years — to cover the cost of treating Africans with HIV-AIDs. In addition, President Bush engineered a peace deal in Sudan that effectively brought an end to one of the region’s oldest civil wars.

Much of the impetus for Bush’s activism in Africa came from the Christian right, which saw the Sudanese conflict through the prism of religious freedom; the conflict to Republicans was between a militant Islam and a persecuted Christian minority. Evangelicals flocked to the defense of south Sudan and, even now, are among the loudest advocates for legal partition of the country — and a more muscular U.S. role in overseeing a planned election next year that could lead to the creation of Africa’s newest nation.

Obama’s studied restraint towards African issues has permitted him to ignore the liberal wing of his own Democratic party, which would like his administration to push Sudan on the thorny question of the Darfur region as well as the country’s Christian south. With Republicans in control of the House, for instance, pressure for dramatic action will grow.

Nigeria is another large, troubled country that Obama has essentially ignored but his critics say he has done so to the detriment of long-term U.S. interests. Nigeria is the fifth largest source of foreign oil for the U.S., and the country of origin for the largest group of African immigrants in America. As most populous country in Africa, Nigeria has an economic weight that warrants American attention. But the country also contains the largest number of Muslims in any African country. And one of those Muslims last December was caught trying to blow up a plane, raising the profile of militant Islamic groups in Nigeria — and their potential connections with anti-American factions throughout the Muslim world.

President Obama has done little thinking about how to support the progessive in Nigeria. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has repeatedly warned that Nigeria’s government is dangerously derelict, but she’s offered no concrete proposals on aidiing the country, whose presidential election is only months away.

Thus, the possibility exists that Obama will face two African crises — in Sudan and Nigeria — and a Congress who wants his administration to take an active role in engaging the continent. Africans, frustrated privately with the president’s lack of attention to their region, likely will welcome a new approach, even if the approach comes in the wake of Obama’s political retreat.

While what Zachary says is accurate as far as it goes, it seems to me that African expectations for Obama were always misplaced and failed to account for both Obama’s main focus as a politician and the realities of the American political system and the American electorate.

In particular, in Kenya, I never thought that Obama’s decision to make a quick visit to Ghana rather than to Kenya should be seen so much as a criticism of Kenya’s political failings as a reflection of Obama’s needs as President of the US. Obama has been under vigorous, and quite effective, attack since the early part of his campaign from the right in the US for being too “Kenyan” and too much associated with Islam–and of course as actually both Kenyan and Muslim rather than American and Christian. This has only gotten worse as it has crawled out of the e-mail networks and blogosphere and into open discussion by current and former elected officials, the cover of Forbes and Glenn Beck. A state visit to Kenya with a riotous outpouring of welcome from Kenyans has always been the last thing he has needed in America, and has become more and more politically untenable as his popularity has slipped.

Beyond that, while Obama obviously has a personal connection to his African heritage, it has simply not been a big part of his direction as a politician. In general, Obama has been more involved and identified with domestic issues, working as a “community” poverty activist in Chicago and then going to law school to come back to Chicago to go into politics there. He was an American law professor teaching US Constitutional law and a lawyer working in civil rights areas. Aside from having little record in foreign policy in general, he did not chose to spend any length of time visiting, much less living, in Kenya or anywhere else in Africa.

There are a lot of American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, who have been more engaged over a period of years in African affairs and American policy in Africa. Even though his first foray into politics was in speaking in favor of divestment as a tool against South African apartheid as a student at Columbia this was not a deep engagement or a primary path he followed subsequently. Continue reading

Election Day in Tanzania [updated Nov. 1-"the best in Africa"]

Uchaguzi citizen monitoring/mapping is up and running.

EU Election Observation Mission Tanzania

Update–Nov. 1: “EU Interim Observers’ Report Ready Tuesday” at AllAfrica.com from the Tanzanian Daily News

Arusha — THE European Union Election Observation Mission will release an interim report on the 2010 Tanzanian General Elections, next Tuesday.

“The preliminary statement on the mission’s findings will be issued on Tuesday from 11.00 am during a press conference that I am to conduct at the Movenpick Hotel in Dar-es- Salaam,” said the Chief Observer, Mr David Martin.

Speaking in Arusha, Mr Martin who was accompanied by long term observer Mr Andreas Jordan said his team has met local party leaders here, community members and have even visited rural villages but he intends to observe the actual voting process in Dar es Salaam before compiling the initial report.

“The provisional report is expected to be a seven-page manual whose final details are to be added on Monday after the polls,but the real and ultimate comprehensive election report is due to be ready in two months time, possibly early 2011,” he said.

“And don’t expect the term ‘Free and Fair’ anywhere within the soon to be publicized EU-EOM reports. We usually do not use such words,” said Mr Martin, adding that the way they conduct their mission is extremely different from other international observers.

However, the EU Chief Observer said from what his team has seen so far, Tanzania’s poll conduct should be the best in Africa.

“Tanzania must go down the record as an exemplary country compared to other states on the continent in the way her people, political parties and politicians conduct their campaigns as well as how they brace themselves for the national elections in general,” praised Mr Martin.

“Having worked around the globe, different continents and states, we have amassed enough experience,” said the EU-EOM chief, adding that in contrast to other countries on the continent, he can officially comment that Tanzania is the best in Africa.

But while at that, he pointed out that the conduct here was still far from being perfect, only better than all other African countries they have ever worked with.

“International Election Observers Descend on Dar Es Salaam” at AllAfrica.com from the Tanzanian Daily News:

The number of local monitors is around 8,000, according to NEC. Election monitoring, among other things, is aimed at putting to test integrity and credibility of the country’s electoral process, after re-introduction of multiparty democracy in 1992. The primary objective of observers is to assess the conduct of an election process on the basis of national legislation, regional and international standards.

Foreign observer mission in the country include those from the European Union (EU), African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) and Japan. Most of the groups say that they have a common mission of ensuring that the country undertakes free and fair elections.The chairman of EAC observers involving 18 people, Mr Reuben Oyondi, told reporters earlier this week that they have planned to visit several areas to monitor the preparations for the polls

Coke–Africa’s Largest Employer: BusinessWeek Cover Story

CK Blue Cat Joint

Africa: Coke’s Last Frontier in BusinessWeek.

In Uganda, Red Coke and Blue Pepsi compete in Kampala and across the Ugandan countryside. In Kenya, it seems that all the generally available “brands” are Coke products.

[Update:  See Cola Wars Return to Kenya]

Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission steps up; Kibaki reverts to form; TJRC fails

News from Kenya suggests that a fresh breeze has finally started to stir on the corruption front. Nairobi Mayor Majiwa was forced to resign in the wake of his arrest on corruption charges, after initially vowing to stay on duty.

“The Big Story” yesterday in the Daily Nation reveals that the Anti-Corruption Commission, the KACC, has begun new efforts to recover from overseas proceeds from the massive and notorious Anglo-Leasing and Goldenburg fraud schemes and probe additional ministries in current scandals. The Commission has written seeking formal assistance from the US, the UK and Switzerland. The Commission cleared away through a successful appeal a 2007 court ruling that it did not have authority to seek such foreign cooperation, with the Court of Appeals finding the argument that persuaded the lower court to be “idle”. Today, we have the detail that PLO Lumumba, KACC head, says that they are investigating four ministers and at least 45 heads of parastatals.

Nonetheless, President Kibaki appointed George Saitoti, his minister of Internal Security since January 8, 2008 during the post-election violence and a longtime insider, to the additional portfolio of Interim Foreign Minister. As I have noted previously, Saitoti was implicated by human rights groups in Moi-era election violence. He previously stepped aside as Education Minister as suspect in Goldenberg investigations, although the High Court ruled that he should not be prosecuted and he was reinstated. The BBC said at the time:

The court rejected the conclusions of an earlier commission of inquiry that recommended Mr Saitoti’s prosecution over the so-called Goldenberg affair.

The $1bn scam in the 1990s involved government payments to a company for non-existent gold and diamond exports.

Mr Saitoti was serving at the time as finance minister and vice-president.

The court ruled that Mr Saitoti had been acting according to procedure when he approved a payment to the firm Goldenberg International.

The court also noted the attorney-general had cleared Mr Saitoti of wrongdoing in a statement that he issued in parliament more than a decade ago.

“Today marks my happiest day in the last 16 years because during that period I have gone through much pain and suffering,” Mr Saitoti said after the judgement.

Both Mr Saitoti and former President Daniel arap Moi, in whose administration he served, have denied any knowledge of the scam.

For further perspective on the status of corruption and the middle class in Kenya, I highly recommend John Githongo’s inaugural post today on his “The State of Hope” blog: “Colonial Spoils Recycled as New Money”.

In this context, a crucial part of the 2008 settlement and “Reform Agenda”, the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, has completely derailed over the continued clinging to power of Ambassador Bethwel Kiplagat. The American member loudly resigned, neither Parliament nor foreign donors will pay to operate the Commission, and the public obviously has expressed no confidence.

Wetangala Resigns

Tom Maliti has the AP story on the Foreign Minister’s resignation here.

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s foreign minister said Wednesday he is resigning to allow investigations into allegations of a multimillion dollar scandal involving five Kenyan embassies in Africa, Europe and Asia.

Moses Wetangula’s announcement came less than an hour before parliament was to continue debate on a committee report that investigated the sale or purchase of Kenyan embassies, land and other property in Belgium, Egypt, Japan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

The committee said Wetangula deliberately misinformed them about the transactions and called for him to step aside. The report’s most serious allegation is that Kenya paid too much money for land to build a new embassy in Tokyo. It claims Kenya lost 1.1. billion shillings ($14.2 million) in the transaction.

"I want to tell Kenyans with a clear conscience that this afternoon I have made the personal decision to step aside from my responsibility and appointment as minister of foreign affairs," Wetangula said in a televised statement shortly after his most senior bureaucrat resigned.

The suspension of William Ruto to face January trial over an old KANU era land deal has obviously been major news, but Ruto has obviously made himself a target for both Kibaki and Raila, who both continued to do business with him during the years this case has been outstanding. The arrest of Nairobi’s mayor, at the instance of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, over the city’s recent purchase of unsuitable land at an apparently inflated price, and the activism in Parliament on the embassy deals leading to Wetangala’s resignation suggest something more, a willingness to act against current corruption in real time. There seems to be a contrast here with the handling of the primary education funding and maize scandals under the Government of National Unity pre-referendum.

It is vital not to overreact to "the news of the day" on these systemic issues in Kenya, but I do think this seems hopeful.

Transparency International Annual Corruption Perception Index released [corrected and updated]

The new Transparency International corruption perception rankings for 2010 have been released today.

For East Africa:

66 Rwanda (4.0 score on a scale of 10) [up from 3.3 for 2009]
116 Ethiopia (2.7) [unchanged]
116 Tanzania (2.7) [up from 2.6]
127 Uganda (2.5) [unchanged]
154 Kenya (2.1) [down from 2.2]
170 Burundi (1.8) [unchanged]
172 Sudan (1.6) [up from 1.5]
178 Somalia (1.1–lowest) [unchanged]

The United States dropped to 22nd with a 7.1 score.

The new report was drawn from surveys taken from January 2009 to September 2010.

For these listed East African countries, there was no demonstrated significant change from 2009 to 2010.

Given its methodology, the CPI is not a tool that is
suitable for trend analysis or for monitoring changes in the
perceived levels of corruption over time for all countries.
Year-to-year changes in a country/territory’s score can
result from a change in the perceptions of a country’s
performance, a change in the ranking provided by original
sources or changes in the methodology resulting from TI’s
efforts to improve the index.
If a country is featured in one or more specific data
sources for both of the last two CPIs (2009 CPI and 2010
CPI), those sources can be used to identify whether there
has been a change in perceived levels of corruption in
that particular country compared to the previous year.
TI has used this approach in 2010 to assess country
progress over the past year and to identify what can be
considered to be a change in perceptions of corruption.
These assessments use two criteria:
(a) there is a year-on-year change of at least 0.3 points in
a country’s CPI score, and
(b) the direction of this change is confirmed by more than
half of the data sources evaluating that country.
Based on these criteria, the following countries showed
an improvement from 2009 to 2010: Bhutan, Chile, Ecuador,
FYR Macedonia, Gambia, Haiti, Jamaica, Kuwait and
Qatar. The following countries showed deterioration from
2009 to 2010: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary,
Italy, Madagascar, Niger and the United States.

The Dar Side? Yet another President’s Electoral Commission

With elections in Tanzania set for October 31, the East African today reported “Fear, anxiety build up ahead of Tanzania’s election showdown Sunday”.

Most commentators, including Africa Confidential have not gone so far as to suggest that President Kikwete of the Nyerere ruling party CCM faced any real likelihood of defeat, but the East African asserts that an opposition surge has resulted in a serious two man race:

An opinion poll by non-government organisation Tanzania Citizens Information Bureau found that if elections were held between September 27 and October 10, Dr Willbrod Slaa, 62, would obtain 45 per cent of the votes cast against Kikwete’s 41 per cent.

Two earlier polls, one by the Synovate group and the other by a University of Dar es Salaam think tank, showed that Kikwete would win with 61 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

Analysts say that in the eyes of the public, CCM has gradually deviated from its founding values — fighting corruption, ensuring less spending on government administration and provision of social services — and that its leadership is firmly in the pockets of the capitalist class.

At the same time, Chadema, a 1992 breakaway from CCM — then led by Edwin Mutei, former governor and finance minister who disagreed with Nyerere, his boss then, on fiscal policy — has been making the fight against corruption the key plank of its electoral platform.

This play of perceptions seems to be earning Dr Slaa political mileage, and troubling Kikwete’s advisers.
. . . .
It appears that Chadema’s choice of presidential candidate was designed to exploit the frictions within CCM and expose the mismatch between its founding principles and the current reality.

Dr Slaa crossed from CCM to Chadema in 1995 after the party did not let him contest a political post for which he had won the primaries. He stood on the Chadema ticket to represent Karato District in parliament and won.

The catholic priest-turned-politician, who has built a reputation of himself as a man who speaks his mind and fearlessly fights corruption, brought his social-democratic values to a Chadema till then known as a centrist outfit.

Dr Slaa has pledged to cut the salary of the president by 20 per cent and those of Members of Parliament by 15 per cent.
. . . .
The opposition has accused the ruling party of using state resources to facilitate its campaign. There are fears of rigging and ultimately violence during and after the election.

The Electoral Commission has said that there are about 19 million registered voters, “However, scientific demographic surveys indicate that there cannot be more than 16 million voters in Tanzania,” said Ismail Jussa, CUF deputy secretary general.

“Electoral corruption has never reached this level: There are politicians out there buying votes, but nothing is being done to curb this,” Mr Jussa added.
. . . .
There are concerns with the electoral legal framework. The Elections Act 1995 provides for a National Electoral Commission to be appointed by the president, which in turn appoints district election officials who happen to be government officials.

A recent amendment provided for the Commission to appoint officials, in the event that district executive directors cannot supervise elections in the areas, but such new appointees are also civil servants. “The Electoral Commission is not independent,” Chadema’s Mnyika told The EastAfrican.

Electoral Commissions appointed unilaterally by a president who is running for re-election are a disaster waiting to happen, as we saw in Kenya in 2007. This situation allowed fraud in Uganda in the last election and theatens it again in February 2011.

Tanzania is a MCC compact country and a U.S. favorite. Kikwete visited Kibaki in Nairobi in early 2008 said to be carrying a message on behalf of the U.S. and helping to persuade Kibaki to agree to negotiated toward a deal to allow a role for ODM along with PNU in a power-sharing for national unity. The Tanzanian election has been low on my radar screen with all of the many problems in the region and certainly State and USAID have more than their hands full of challenges. Let us hope Tanzanian officials rise to the occasion.

New IMF Survey Predicts 5%+ Average Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa

IMF Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa

The IMF identifies the biggest risk to a return to record pre-financial crisis growth levels in the region as an overall global slowdown, and also notes risk to the pace of policy reforms from the large number of elections scheduled for 2011.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s trading patterns have shown some dramatic shifts during the last few years toward China and other parts of developing Asia, the report said. These shifts were so marked that, by 2009, China’s share in the sub-Saharan Africa’s total exports and imports exceeded that between China and most other regions in the world.
Exports of goods and services make relatively small contributions to aggregate demand in most sub-Saharan African countries. Europe and other advanced countries remain the region’s dominant trading partners. However, in a minority of countries— including the major natural resource exporters— the impact of developing Asia on global export demand and commodity prices is expected to be significant in both the short and long term.

Overall, trade with Asia is therefore likely to be an increasingly important factor in maintaining growth for the region on its current trajectory. But the key drivers of African growth are likely to remain: political stability; the business climate, including the prudent exploitation of natural resources; and the quality of economic management.

Aid–gaming the current numbers, with risks in the long term?

From Ed Cropley at Reuters Africa Blog–”Donors’ aid squeeze to up Africa’s debts”

In 2005, donors at the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland promised to double aid by up to $50 billion in five years — an ambitious promise that has not been matched by reality.
Furthermore, a trend since then towards more aid delivered via grants risks going into reverse as cash-strapped rich-country finance ministers seek out cunning ways to make their development budgets go further.
For instance, by most definitions a bilateral loan qualifies as “aid” if a quarter of it is a grant, meaning donors can cut today’s cost of their aid bill by 75 percent, and then swallow the cost of a low lending rate over the duration of the loan.
“In 2009, France’s proportions of aid going in loans just rocketed,” Coppard said. “This theoretically will need to be paid back.”
The implications of such a switch by other donors would be dire, burying many African states under the same mountain of obligations that triggered the 2005 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt forgiveness initiative.
For example, if all its overseas grants became loans tomorrow, Tanzania would be running a budget deficit of a staggering 25 percent of GDP — a ratio that would leave its plans for a $500 million Eurobond dead in the water.

Debt may be appropriate for specific projects that generate government revenues to service the debt, but if borrowed funds are sunk into more general budget substitution, experimentation, projects that reflect donor priorities that may not have local buy-in or results, it seems a stretch to equate a loan to a grant or gift.

Worth noting that Kenya specifically has a had a big run up of domestic debt recently.

Sudan Update

Major State Department briefing today with Special Envoy Gration, Assistant Secretary Carson and Samantha Power from NSC on Sudan diplomacy.
Interesting reference to Kenya leadership: “Regional leaders have a central role in the implementation of the CPA. The U.S. has been in close contact with Uganda’s Museveni, Ethiopia’s Zenawi, Kenya’s Odinga, and chair of the Pan-African Union Jean Ping.”

Maggie Fick writes at Foreign Policy about the risk of internal fighting within the South even if the referendum succeeds and things are stable between North and South. This is well beyond any claimed expertise on my part, but I have a hard time imagining that she isn’t completely right–and I would certainly hope that serious consideration and planning has been going on within the U.S. foreign policy and security establishment on this for quite some time. The “gold rush” mentality coming from foreign investors and even NGOs–will certainly be a factor. Remember that Rolling Stone article about the Americans and warlords and mass tracts of farmland just south of the North/South border?