Monday Briefing – Guinea, Madagascar, World Bank strategy and more

GUINEA

After Conde Victory, What Next for Guinea?
Sahel Blog 17 Nov. 10

On Monday, Guinea’s electoral commission declared opposition leader Alpha Conde the victor of a drawn-out presidential election contest. The win represents an “extraordinary comeback” for Conde…
Radio France Internationale reports that on the political front, he formed alliances with 16 parties which lost in the first round, enabling him to win in three of the four regions in the country and in four of the five communes in the capital, Conakry.

Conde’s victory is not, however, the end of the story. Dissension, and now violence, have followed the announcement of the provisional results.

ICC to Guinea: You’re On Notice!
UN Dispatch 19 Nov. 10

Disputed election results in Guinea have given way to demonstrations. And it is becoming increasingly clear the Guinean security were excessively violent in suppressing dissent. (…) In an apparent attempt to avoid that outcome, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court just fired off this missive, putting Guinean authorities on notice.
… “All reported act of violence will be closely scrutinized by the Office in order to determine whether crimes falling under the Courtʹs jurisdiction are committed and should warrant an investigation.”
This is a real test of the ICC’s potential to serve as a deterrent. Will it work?

MADAGASCAR

Madagascar referendum could deepen political crisis | Blessing-Miles Tendi
guardian.co.uk 17 Nov. 10

Madagascar is holding a referendum on a new constitution today. The plebiscite is a key element in a plan by Andry Rajoelina, president of the High Authority for Transition (HAT) to legitimise his government’s rule. The referendum also marks the first stage of his transition process, which culminates in parliamentary elections in March 2011 and a presidential election two months later. (…)
However, the main opposition parties’ nonparticipation in the plebiscite threatens to rob Rajoelina of the high voter turnout he craves. Moreover, the African Union (AU), Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and America have criticised the lack of inclusivity in the HAT government’s transition process and are demanding a return to the negotiation table. Rajoelina is unlikely to secure legitimacy through the referendum despite a likely “yes” vote.


Madagascar coup attempt fails

guardian.co.uk 21 nov. 10

Army officers give themselves up without bloodshed after trying to seize power
An attempted coup on Madagascar has been defused without bloodshed, it was revealed this weekend. Camille Vital, the prime minister, told reporters on Saturday that 16 army officers had surrendered, ending an impasse that began on Wednesday when the soldiers declared they were taking over from Andry Rajoelina.

SUDAN

Khartoum Bombing the South?
Roving Bandit 19 Nov. 10

“Last Friday’s aerial attacks by the Sudan army in Kiir Adeem, about 80 kilometres from Gok Machar in Aweil North County.
During the attack the Sudan army’s Antonov plane lobbed several bombs that resulted into the wounding of 17 civilians, most of whom are Baggara Arab.…”

From a rather sober article in Gurtong discussing the reasons for low registration turnout. What on earth is going on?! Is this real? How on earth is this not a huge fucking issue? This can’t be true can it?


Sudan’s NCP threatens to reject referendum result

Reuters: Top News 21 Nov. 10

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Sudan’s ruling northern party warned on Sunday it may not recognise the result of a January 9 southern referendum on independence if problems with registering voters were not resolved.

NIGERIA

An interview with Nigeria’s Mr Anti-Corruption
Baobab – The Economist

A RECENT issue of The Economist examined the presidential bid of Nuhu Ribadu, Nigeria’s former anti-corruption chief. Mr Ribadu made his name as the first head of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003. In this role, he pursued politicians and civil servants who were embezzling the energy revenues of Africa’s biggest oil and gas producer
Mr Ribadu’s fortunes dipped when Umaru Yar’Adua took office as president in 2007. The sleazebuster was sidelined and later fled the country, returning only after Mr Yar’Adua’s death in May this year. He now hopes to run for the top job himself in elections due in early 2011.

Nigeria oil bill not likely before election: lawyers
Reuters 19 Nov. 10

LONDON (Reuters) – Nigeria is unlikely to pass long-awaited oil reform until after elections as the government struggles to harmonise a final draft of the bill, two lawyers advising the government told Reuters at a conference.

Nigerian ex-VP to challenge Jonathan at primaries
Reuters Mon Nov 22
ABUJA (Reuters) – A group of influential northern politicians in Nigeria’s ruling party said on Monday they had agreed on a consensus candidate to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in the party’s primaries ahead of elections next April.
The Northern Political Leaders Forum, led by former finance minister Adamu Ciroma, said it had chosen former Vice President Atiku Abubakar out of four candidates to run against Jonathan in primaries expected in January.

DRC

Congo: No Stability in Kivu despite Rapprochement with Rwanda
International Crisis Group – Africa
The plan to resolve the conflict in the Kivu by emphasising a military solution is failing. Two years after the rapprochement between Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, government soldiers are still battling militias for control of land and mines. Neither side has the strength to win, but both have the resources to prolong the fighting indefinitely.

Creditors agree Congo debt write-off, flag worries
Reuters 18 Nov. 10
PARIS (Reuters) – Creditor countries have agreed to write off $7.35 billion in debt owed by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to the Paris Club of creditors.
the Paris Club said an agreement had been struck on the write-off “as a contribution to restoring DRC’s debt sustainability”, but the creditors flagged a list of problems they want addressed.
“Paris Club creditors expressed their concern over the business environment and urged the government of the DRC to carry out further reforms to improve governance, strengthen the rule of law and fight corruption which are necessary conditions to ensure a sustainable development…


INTERNATIONAL ECONOMY / DEVELOPMENT

What role does the World Bank have in Africa’s future? | Claire Provost
Poverty matters blog – guardian.co.uk
The World Bank’s new report on Africa, published this week, concluded that that continent “could be on the brink of an economic take-off, much like China was 30 years ago, and India 20 years ago”.
In its draft strategy for Africa, published on Monday, the bank said the continent’s steady economic growth, progress on the millennium development goals and good rates of returns on investments give Africa “unprecedented opportunity for transformation and growth”. Promoting Africa as an exciting and lucrative investment destination will be crucial to fulfilling this potential, it added. (…)
Now, the bank has launched an online consultation alongside the draft, actively seeking comment from the public to feed into its final strategy for Africa, due early next year.
What feedback the bank chooses to incorporate into its strategies and programmes on the continent – if any – is the crucial question. In the past, critics, such as Beatrice Edwards, of the Governance Accountability Project, have come down hard on the bank for showing “transparency about the problem but no accountability or attempt to fix it”.

Will the Food Riots of 2008 Return in 2011?
UN Dispatch 18 nov. 10
Remember the food riots of 2008, when violent protests over a sharp rise in food prices broke out from Bangladesh to Haiti? Bad times, indeed. Well, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization, food prices in 2011 are set to reach — or even exceed — 2008 levels.
From the Food and Agriculture Organization:
Food import bills for the world’s poorest countries are predicted to rise 11 percent in 2010 and by 20 percent for low-income food-deficit countries.
This means, by passing a trillion dollars, the global import food bill will likely rise to a level not seen since food prices peaked at record levels in 2008.

Africa infrastructure next big move for China firms
Reuters 17 Nov. 2010
TIANJIN, China (Reuters) – The construction of transportation and power infrastructure across Africa could provide the next big opportunity for Chinese firms aiming to invest in the continent, a senior executive with South Africa’s Standard Bank told Reuters.
Speaking on the sidelines of a mining conference, Andrew King, the bank’s Asia chief executive, said the big advantage Chinese developers have over their Western counterparts is the Chinese firms’ access to financing from government policy banks.
“If big mining is going to take place in Africa, it’s going to require significant investment in infrastructure — in ports, railways, roads and power,” he said.
“For many of the contractors in China, it is going to be a great opportunity — a lot of companies from Europe or Brazil could do it, but (Chinese firms) have the ability to provide funding through the policy banks.”
The World Bank said in a report earlier this year that Africa had to fill an investment gap of $31 billion per year if it was to build the infrastructure it required.
Companies like the China Railway Construction Corp and China Harbour Engineering are already looking at opportunities across Africa, King noted.

¿Una nueva “pelea por África”?

La BBC anunciaba ayer que Corea del Sur había firmado un acuerdo con el gobierno de Tanzania para la adquisión de 1000 km2 de terreno cultivable – la mitad de los cuales se destinaría a campesinos locales y la otra mitad para la producción y exportación al país asiático de productos alimentarios ya procesados – en su mayoría aceites. Aunque el Ministro de Agricultura de Tanzania ha desmentido hoy la noticia, es sin embargo importante reflexionar sobre este tipo de acuerdos, que reflejan la aparición de nuevos procesos en el panorama económico y alimentario mundial.

Durante los últimos dos años han ido aumentando las noticias de compra, por parte de países como China, Arabia Saudí, Kuwait o Corea del Sur, de grandes superficies de terreno cultivable en diversas partes de África. Este nuevo desarrollo – calificado ya como un nuevo “land grab”  ,apropiación de tierras, y denunciado por organizaciones como Grain – responde a la necesidad de estos países de asegurar su abastecimiento de alimentos, y de hacerlo al menor precio posible (de hecho este fenómeno comenzó en 2008, a raíz del aumento de precio de los alimentos básicos – sobre todo arroz – en el mercado mundial). Haciendo uso de su mayor potencial económico, estos países han comenzado pues a adquirir o arrendar por períodos de hasta 100 años, grandes superficies de terrenos fértiles en países que aunque disponen de terreno, no tienen garantizada su “seguridad alimentaria”.

landgrab

Uno de los acuerdos más importantes – tanto en superficie como en las consecuencias políticas – fue el firmado a finales del pasado año entre el Gobierno de Madagascar y la compañía surcoreana Daewoo. Este acuerdo, por el cual 1.300.000 hectáreas, la mitad de la superficie cultivable de la isla africana, pasaban a manos extranjeras desató  numerosas protestas – tanto dentro como fuera del país y fue, según algunos comentaristas, uno de los motivos que llevó a la violenta caída del gobierno de Madagascar a principios de año. Este acuerdo – suspendido por el nuevo gobierno sin embargo – es sin embargo sólo el más visible de numerosos acuerdos firmados por gobiernos africanos con economías emergentes.

Los problemas que pueden conllevar estos acuerdos están claros. Primero, existe un claro riesgo de aumento del hambre en estos países por la falta de alimentos producidos en el país y la incapacidad de comprarlos en el mercado mundial si los precios continúan en ascenso. De hecho esta semana se anunciaba de forma oficial que por primera vez el número de personas que pasa hambre en el mundo pasa de los 1.000 millones , al mismo tiempo que la ONU avisaba del riesgo de hambruna en el Cuerno de África, tras dos años de sequía. Además de la posible falta de alimentos, estos acuerdos buscan una producción intensiva, algo que puede resultar en un uso excesivo de los recursos hidrícos y una posible sobre-explotación del terreno, además de la contaminación generada por el gran uso de pesticidas.

Explotación agrícola en Kenya (pincha en la foto para ir a un reportaje sobre el tema en El País
Explotación agrícola en Kenya (pincha en la foto para ir a un reportaje sobre el tema en El País

Todo esto apunta pues a que las desigualdades económicas pueden traducirse – si no se realiza un esfuerzo para investigar las condiciones en las que distintos países compran tierras en otros más pobres, y en los que la propiedad de la tierra es un tema muy complicado – en una nueva colonización. Es por tanto necesario un compromiso internacional que investigue si existen posibles ventajas en estos acuerdos (por ejempo en la inversión de capital) para los países más débiles, y cual es la mejor manera de asegurar que los que más los necesitas no son de nuevo despojados de sus recursos.