Gabon president returns after failed coup

Gabon’s President Ali Bongo has returned to his country just over a week after an attempted coup.

President Bongo had been in Morocco, where he was seeking treatment after reportedly suffering a stroke in October in Saudi Arabia.

He came back in the early hours of Tuesday ahead of a ceremony where a new cabinet was sworn in.

The appointment of new ministers is seen as an attempt to boost the chances of the president remaining in power.

Mr Bongo succeeded his father Omar Bongo as president in 2009. He narrowly won re-election in 2016 in a poll marred by violence and accusations of fraud.

Last week, a group of soldiers announced that they had seized control of the government.

But the attempt to take power was short-lived as forces loyal to the president swiftly overpowered the renegade soldiers.

Between the president and his father, the Bongo family have been in power for more than half a century.

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The Ugandan Entrepreneur Peddling Bamboo Bikes

At a workshop in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, Noordin Kasoma measured and cut a length of bamboo. Within a few days, the 24 inch piece of grass would be transformed into the frame of a bicycle.

In an industry dominated by steel and aluminum, the use of bamboo is not as bizarre as it might seem. Kasoma says his bikes are strong, light and durable. They are also comfortable, he says.

“Bamboo is flexible; due to that flexibility it gives that kind of shock absorbing property when you’re riding especially off-road. The bamboo itself tries to absorb the shocks that you are passing through … (better) than steel or aluminum,” he told Reuters.

Bamboo frames are relatively well-known in the cycling world, but Noordin’s include a special Ugandan twist. The joints are reinforced with bark cloth, a traditional clothing material harvested from the inner bark of the Mutuba tree.

The cloth is dipped in resin, wrapped around the joints, dried and sanded down into a shiny finish.

Noordin says he chose to work with bamboo because it can be easily found in the country, grows fast and can be sustainably harvested.

He learnt to make bikes after training with American bike frame designer and manufacturer Craig Calfee and watching tutorials on the internet.

“We get geometrical diagrams of different types of bikes and different sizes. We normally make mountain bikes, city bikes, travel bikes and then we have the road bikes, the racing bikes,” he said.

His Boogaali brand is portmanteau of bamboo and “gaali”, which means bicycle in the local Luganda language.

Costing between $350 and $450 each, the bikes are proving so popular that Noordin plans to expand his factory, and grow his 20-strong workforce.

“I think it’s even a cheaper option because if you went through importing a carbon frame, the taxes and the like, you certainly may buy two of these,” said Amos Nuwagaba, a cyclist.

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Gbagbo ruling rattles ICC foundations

As the first former head of state to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), Laurent Gbagbo was a glittering trophy for a prosecution team with a glaringly sparse cabinet.

For an institution dreamt up to hold the world’s most powerful to account, the former Ivorian president’s extradition to The Hague was a signal the ICC was up to the challenge.

Great expectations make the failure even more bitter for a prosecution still reeling from the dramatic collapse of the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba, the former DR Congo vice-president whose conviction for war crimes and crimes against humanity was overturned.

What does the Laurent Gbagbo case tell us about the state of the ICC and its ability to operate as the global instrument of international justice?

First things first, what went wrong?

“Put simply, it appears that the judges are not convinced that the prosecution’s evidence is sufficient to warrant the trial continuing,” Mark Kersten, author of Justice in Conflict, explained ahead of the ruling.

“The Trial Chamber asked the prosecution for a ‘mid-trial brief’ last year,” he says.

“In doing so, they cast a pall of doubt on the ability of the prosecution to prove Mr Gbagbo and [his close ally Charles] Blé Goudé’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, as well as on the narrative put forward by the prosecution regarding their alleged common plan to commit crimes.”

Why is this different?

“Whenever a case involving mass atrocities essentially collapses at the ICC,” Mr Kersten points out, “it does damage to the perception of the court as a credible and effective institution of international justice. The ICC needs wins and it’s racking up losses.”

This matters to those who have invested materially (states) and emotionally (victims) in the ICC’s fundamental reason for being – a court of last resort, prepared to act when countries are unwilling or unable to bring the prosecutions themselves.

These prosecutions are expensive. The evidence needs to be watertight. Otherwise it plays into the critics hands.

“This is a mechanism a lot of countries have signed up to,” Janet Anderson, who writes for the Justice Tribune, tells me.

“Those who haven’t signed up are so vehemently opposed, if the ICC is seen as incompetent in some way, it plays into the bigger narrative of whether it should be up to individual nation states to do this work rather than have the international community involved and concerned.”

Remind us, what happened?

About 3,000 people died in post-election violence following Laurent Gbagbo’s defiant decision to cling to power in 2010 after his rival Alassane Outarra won.

The Ivory Coast was not a member of the ICC but accepted jurisdiction to cover the period in question.

Laurent Gbagbo was held under house arrest for seven months before his unceremonious extradition to the grizzly, grey capital of international justice – a fact his fresh-off-the-hanger ICC-supplied suit could not disguise.

I remember the aging politician’s apparent disorientation during his first court appearance in The Hague. Blinking behind his spectacles, under the harsh lights, seemingly confused by the gazes from a packed public gallery.

At the time, Elise Keppler from Human Rights Watch (HRW) welcomed his arrest: “The ICC is playing its part to show that even those at the highest levels of power cannot escape justice when implicated in grave crimes.”

HRW was among those calling on the prosecutor to move swiftly in investigating alleged crimes committed by those allied with the victorious Mr Ouattara.

Despite former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo’s assurances, the only other ICC warrant issued to date was for Laurent Gbagbo’s firebrand youth leader Charles Blé Goudé.

Cries of “Victor’s Justice” echoed all the way to The Hague.

After eight years of the Ivory Coast investigation, many are still wondering whether chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda will honour the promise to prosecute those on both sides.

Can the ICC prosecute state actors?

“It makes it look as though the ICC is unable to do its job,” Ms Anderson says.

“It is troubling the prosecutor has been unable to effectively convict state actors such as Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, DRC former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, and Ivory Coast’s Gbagbo”, says Mr Kersten.

“This latest setback could have a chilling effect on the already apparent unwillingness of the prosecutor to target state actors,” he cautions. “Many are thus concerned that the court is emerging as an institution where only rebels can be successfully prosecuted.

“That would sap the credibility of the court, given how many civilians face violence and atrocity at the hands of their own governments.”

Others say this case is still the legacy of the previous prosecutor, the charismatic, zealous Mr Ocampo.

Business as usual?

The court has three suspects in detention awaiting trial. It has an investigation looming into Afghanistan.

Plus there are calls to make on whether to open investigations into Palestinian regions, Venezuela, Ukraine, the Philippines and the deportation of the Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

An acquittal for Laurent Gbagbo won’t have a major destabilising impact on the court, but cumulatively and symbolically it will rattle its foundations.

Any silver linings?

Today’s ruling demonstrates the judges’ independence and impartiality while raising troubling questions about the future role and focus for this beacon of international justice.

But at least allowing a former president to walk free makes it harder to push the narrative, popular among those who fear the long arm of the ICC, that the court is a biased weapon of neo-colonial justice, used purely to convict African leaders.

As Ms Anderson points out: “It’s important also to find people not guilty or to find there isn’t a case to answer if there isn’t one.”

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Laurent Gbagbo: Ivory Coast’s defiant ‘Cicero’

Laurent Gbagbo has been acquitted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), almost eight years after his arrest for crimes against humanity.

The former Ivory Coast president was accused of playing a role in murder, rape, persecution and other “inhumane acts” amid the violence that erupted after the country’s disputed 2010 presidential election.

Mr Gbagbo and his co-accused, former youth minister Charles Blé Goudé, both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Despite more than 80 witnesses called to court by the prosecution, ICC judges ruled prosecutors had not managed to prove several charges against Mr Gbagbo and ordered his immediate release.

A defiant rise to power

Born in 1945, Mr Gbagbo is a classically educated academic and is now widely regarded as a leader who was willing to destroy his country by refusing to accept defeat at the ballot box.

After 20 years in opposition, he came to power in 2000 when military leader Robert Guei’s attempts to rig elections were defeated by street protests in the main city, Abidjan.

In April 2011, Mr Gbagbo was himself forced from office – captured in a bunker at the presidential palace by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival Alassane Ouattara, internationally regarded as the winner of elections five months earlier.

Mr Gbagbo was transferred to the ICC at The Hague, where he became the first former head of state to be tried there.

The conflict killed some 3,000 people.

More on Ivory Coast:

Mr Gbagbo maintained that he was the victim of a French plot. He suffered from post-traumatic stress in prison, but judges in 2015 rejected his request to be temporarily released on health grounds.

Mr Gbagbo cut his political teeth in the trade union movement and he played heavily on his reputation as the main opposition figure to former President Felix Houphouet-Boigny’s one-party state.

He started out on the political left, but since the 1980s has taken a strongly nationalist, even xenophobic, stance.

Mr Gbagbo said the dispute over Ivory Coast’s presidency was a fight for Ivorian (and indeed African) sovereignty and he accused the French and Americans of siding against him.

Ivory Coast, he said, was a nation blessed by God, and neo-colonialists wanted to control it for its cocoa and oil fields.

However, this argument did not prevail and the African Union backed the UN’s finding that Mr Gbagbo lost the election and should stand down.

‘Cicero’

Mr Gbagbo was accused of surfing on the wave of xenophobia that swept Ivory Coast during the rule of President Henri Konan Bedie.

Mr Bedie introduced the concept of “Ivoirite” (Ivorianness) to prevent Mr Ouattara, a Muslim with family ties to neighbouring Burkina Faso, from standing in presidential elections in the 1990s.

Laurent Gbagbo: Dates with history

When a civil war two broke out in 2002, Mr Gbagbo’s supporters were accused of carrying out xenophobic attacks in areas they controlled – against those from the mainly Muslim north, immigrants from neighbouring African countries and Westerners.

They accused former colonial power France and the UN of not doing enough to put down the rebellion which had split Ivory Coast into two, with rebels allied with Mr Ouattara seizing the north.

Mr Gbagbo’s forces never regained control of the north, and the rebels went on to help Mr Ouattara force him out of power in 2011.

Mr Gbagbo was born into a Catholic family near Gagnoa, in the cocoa-growing central-west of the country, on 31 May 1945.

“Cicero”, as he was nicknamed because of his taste for Latin during his school days, has a PhD in history.

Beginning his career as a university lecturer, Mr Gbagbo was jailed for two years in 1971 for “subversive” teaching. His nom de guerre was “little brother”.

In the 1980s he was involved in trade union activity among academics.

He was one of the first to challenge Ivory Coast’s founding President Houphouet-Boigny in the 1980s – as soon as the long-serving independence leader permitted multi-party politics.

In 1982 he sought exile in Paris, returning six years later to attend the founding congress of the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI).

His time as an opposition leader led to spells in jail and brushes with the authorities.

His wife, Simone, was a politician in her own right and some saw her as the real hardline power behind the throne, preventing her husband from giving up office.

The ICC had issued an arrest warrant for Mrs Gbagbo as well, but this was dismissed by the Ivorian government.

A court in Ivory Coast sentenced her to 20 years in jail for her role in the violence that followed the 2010 poll. In August 2018, Mrs Gbagbo was granted amnesty by President Ouattara in a move to foster reconciliation.

Passion for music

After his election in 2000, Mr Gbagbo said he would break with the personality cult tradition, saying it was no longer necessary to put up portraits of the president in public places and offices.

He also said that the national media would no longer be obliged to mention the president in all news programmes.

But while he was in power, most news broadcasts highlighted Mr Gbagbo’s daily activities.

He has a reputation for being short-tempered, in particular against “arrogant” journalists, but he is also known for his contagious laughs and vigorous handshakes.

In person he has a broad smile and an easy laugh, and is a born communicator, frequently making use of metaphors from Ivorian daily life.

He is said to have a passion for music, guitar and good food.

Still, the man who campaigned under the slogan “we win or we win”, can be a stubborn political player and, his opponents claim, had links to violent militia groups such as the students’ union, the Fesci, the Young Patriots, and death squads, despite his reputation as a peaceful, Sorbonne-educated socialist.

He also earned himself the nickname “the baker” for his ability to “roll his opponents in the flour”, after showing an uncanny knack of coming out on top in any political tussle.

It appears he has done it again.

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Ivory Coast ex-leader acquitted at ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has acquitted Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo.

He had been charged with crimes against humanity in connection with violence following a disputed 2010 election that left 3,000 dead and 500,000 displaced.

Mr Gbagbo was captured in 2011 in a presidential palace bunker by UN and French-backed forces supporting his rival, Alassane Ouattara.

He was the first former head of state to go on trial at the ICC.

What was Mr Gbagbo accused of?

The violence in Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, came after Mr Gbagbo refused to accept that he had lost a disputed election run-off to Mr Ouattara in 2010.

The five months of violence that followed were described as some of the most brutal clashes the country had ever seen.

During the political stand-off there were bloody clashes and targeted killings in Abidjan in the south, and several hundred were massacred in the western town of Duekoue.

Prosecutors said Mr Gbagbo clung to power “by all means” and charged him with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and “other inhuman acts”.

He denied the charges, which he said were politically motivated.

ICC judges ruled on Tuesday that he had no case to answer because the prosecution had not managed to prove several charges against him. They have ordered his immediate release.

Presiding Judge Cuno Tarfusser said the prosecution had “failed to demonstrate that public speeches by Gbagbo constituted ordering or inducing the alleged crimes”.

Mr Gbagbo’s supporters whooped, cheered and threw their firsts in the air in the public gallery following the announcement, the BBC’s Anna Holligan reports from the court.

One of his supporters, Gragbayou Yves, who had travelled to the court from Paris, told AFP news agency: “I am very, very happy. Finally there is some justice.”

However, victims of the violence are opposed to his release.

“If Laurent Gbagbo is released, we victims will not see justice,” Karim Coulibaly, who was shot in the violence and had to have his arm amputated, told AFP earlier.

“I was a driver but now I am unemployed. I’m not against reconciliation but first you have to look after the victims.”

Is this a blow to the ICC?

“Whenever a case involving mass atrocities essentially collapses at the ICC, it does damage to the perception of the court as a credible and effective institution of international justice,” Mark Kersten, author of Justice in Conflict, told the BBC’s Anna Holligan.

“Many are concerned that the court is emerging as an institution where only rebels can be successfully prosecuted,” he added.

The ICC has also seen cases collapse against former DR Congo Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

On the other hand, the ruling demonstrates the judges’ independence and impartiality and makes it harder to push the narrative, popular among those who fear the long arm of the ICC, that the court is a biased weapon of neo-colonial justice used purely to convict African leaders, our correspondent says.

Janet Anderson, a writer for the Justice Tribune, told the BBC: “It’s important also to find people not guilty or to find there isn’t a case to answer if there isn’t one.”

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With President Mnangagwa in Russia, Zimbabwe descends into chaos over fuel taxes

HARARE (BLOOMBERG) – Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa skipped the carnage by travelling to Moscow as protests erupted across his country on Monday (Jan 14), leaving 24 people injured and five possibly dead.

The protests, which spread from the capital, Harare, to Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo and some smaller towns, followed the government’s decision to increase taxes on fuel, more than doubling the price of the already scarce commodity and making it the world’s most expensive when compared to prices quoted by GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said 13 protesters were treated for gunshot wounds on Monday. NewsDay, a Harare-based newspaper, reported the same organisation as upping the number of injured to 24 and five killed during the demonstrations.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change said in an e-mailed statement its headquarters in Harare were broken into on Monday night and set ablaze by unknown assailants.

Mnangagwa’s trip to Russia was planned before the protests erupted. He’s also scheduled to visit Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan before flying to Davos, Switzerland, in an effort to raise investment for his economically blighted nation.

His absence leaves Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, a retired general, in charge of the southern African country.

Security Minister Owen Ncube told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that the MDC, non-governmental organisations and civil society bodies were to blame for Monday’s violence.

“The prevailing security situation in the country is a culmination of a well-orchestrated series of events by the MDC Alliance working in cahoots with NGOs, civic society, youth organisations, pressure groups and individuals,” he told the Herald, adding that the “MDC Alliance activated its notorious terror groups”.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which called for three days of protests on Sunday, urged Zimbabweans to continue the demonstrations on Tuesday.

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Listen To How Deep By King Plu Ft Mikel

Brooklyn bred, Lawrence Alobi popularly known as “King Plu” is a Nigerian-American artist. He was raised by his mother who strongly instilled in him, the values of education and had aspirations for him to be a doctor. Despite his mother’s desire for him to pursue a career in medicine, “Plu“ had other inclinations; an affinity for poetry and music.

From an early age, he would write poems, have his mom or siblings read them to see if they understood the message or picture he was trying to portray. In his late teens, he began the transition from poetry to music. In his words, “Music is just poetry with a tune to it”.

While attending The University of Houston, “King Plu” continued pursuing a professional career in music. “Plu” became a member of the Hip Hop group “4th & Inchez,” releasing 3 albums and 2 mixtapes. “Plu” later joined the group called The Union, which was a huge hip hop conglomerate in Texas and together they put out 4 mixtapes and toured within the South. After the disbandment of the group in 2011, “Plu” went on to writing and composing music for several artists.

He joined the songwriting collective called “The Four” and worked on records with “Music World”, home to Destiny’s Child, Sabrina Antoinette (Chris Brown’s former artist), Cash Money Records, Lil Flip and more.

In addition to writing for artists, he has performed alongside J. Cole, Drake, Fabulous, Wale, DMX, Rick Ross, Slim Thug, and more. In 2015, “Plu” revisited his Nigerian roots and experimented with the rhythmic sounds of Africa – Afrobeats. Releasing singles like “Bonano,” “Levelz,” “Borrow-Borrow,” and ”Runs Girl”. He has 2 EPs and 3 PluMixes under his belt. Plu began to garner widespread attention in the Nigerian music scene. While consistently putting out records. Plu continues to deliver witty wordplay and he is ready to take over the African rap scene and beyond one bar at a time. All hail the King!

Song Inspiration

From the music to the artwork which was designed by King Plu, you can pick up on the subtle and not so subtle messages. The innuendos and undertones are endless and exactly what he had in mind when he created this piece. “As you gaze, let you mind run free. That’s the beauty of art and music that incites”.

The chorus was beautifully crafted by the amazing Nigerian singer/songwriter/guitarist “Mikel” with melodious vocals that keep your yearning for more.

“Plu” speaks to a female he is drawn to and tries to pick her brain with his witty lyrics and crafty metaphors delivered with panache and a touch of arrogance

We saved the best for last; the production/instrumentation done by world renowned afrobeats producer “Spellz” is nothing short of a masterpiece with African drums and percussions guaranteed to move your hips and set fire to your feet.

“How Deep” is sensual, sexy, it’s about emotions. It’s about love, lust, and the root of all evil;  Love of Money. It is a conversational piece between two.

Wants versus Needs, physical versus mental, sexual vs sensual. There’s always a grey area where something that is sensual to one may be sexual to another.

How deep is your love, Is it Love, Is it Lust?

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Egypt Pledges A Number Of Initiatives To Boost Investment, Integration And Governance During Africa 2018 Forum

– Egypt sends a clear message of intent as it prepares to take over chairmanship of the African Union

         – A Guarantee Fund created to assist Egyptians companies to invest in the continent

        – Governance and the fight against corruption, two core issues at the centre of their AU agenda

As Egypt prepares to take over the chairmanship of the African Union in 2019, President Al Sisi, in the closing plenary of the Africa 2018 Forum, sent a clear message of intent focused on greater integration and greater cooperation.

In an impassioned speech, it was clear that promoting the African agenda was at the heart of his country’s foreign as well as economic strategy. A number of announcements were made during the two day Forum to encourage greater regional private sector investments from Egyptian companies, as well as initiatives to deal with some of the issues and constraints holding back investments, not least infrastructure. A Guarantee Fund was launched as well as dedicated funds focusing on infrastructure and the digitization of African economies.

“This event emphasizes how much importance Egypt accords to the African continent,” Al Sis said. “It’s been an important platform to enhance the multilateral framework of African countries. Improving African infrastructure and a clear focus development will be central to our agenda during our chairmanship of the AU.”

A number of African presidents attended the Forum including the President of Niger who was keen to remind the audience of the urgent need to take bold and decisive action to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that was signed in March this year. Twenty two countries need to ratify it for it to come into force. “If political pan-africanism emerged victorious in the twentieth century he said, economic pan-africanism must win the day in this century.”

Women and youth were also central to the programme. The message sent was that entrepreneurship and private sector should be the driving force to transform the continent. But there needs to be a deliberate approach as it will not just happen organically, according to Paul Kagame who alongside President Al Sisi took part in an intergenerational dialogue during the youth day.

As well as calling for entrepreneurs and investors to dream big, Al Sisi emphasized the need to act quickly. “People always asking me why you are in such a hurry?” he added. “It’s because the needs are so pressing.”

The Forum was attended by 5 heads of state, the Presidents of a number of Development Finance Institutions as well as numerous dignitaries and CEOs. Two hundred and fifty start-ups were invited to take part in the youth day. The Forum also included an exhibition of 30 leading African creators in fashion, design and luxury goods.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Africa 2018.

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Congo President Didn’t Run for Re-election, but He’s Still in Control

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The blaze that consumed the headquarters of the main opposition party of the Democratic Republic of Congo was so devastating that several men were charred beyond recognition, their bodies among dozens killed protesting the rule of President Joseph Kabila.

“We’re dealing with a rogue state,” said the opposition leader, Félix Tshisekedi.

That was a little over two years ago.

Last week, shortly after he was anointed president-elect, Mr. Tshisekedi said he “paid tribute” to Mr. Kabila, describing him as “a partner for change, not an enemy.”

While the situation in Congo remains fluid after an election that most independent observers, including the Roman Catholic Church, consider to be illegitimate, one thing does seem certain: In the absence of intense international pressure or a determined domestic uprising, the Kabila government seems likely to continue running the country in everything but name.

“Kabila is in a very comfortable position,” said one presidential adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “He was very upset over the results, as we all were, but we still retain power.”

The government came under a degree of pressure on Sunday from the Southern African Development Community, which had sent election observers to monitor the vote. The group, which has stopped short of congratulating Mr. Tshisekedi, demanded “a recount that would provide the necessary reassurance to both winners and losers.” It also called for a unity government “given the strong objections to the provisional results.”

Martin Fayulu, the opposition candidate whom many consider the real winner, is contesting the results and has filed an appeal at the Constitutional Court, demanding a manual recount of votes. Election officials deny that the vote was rigged and have threatened to annul the election if it is rejected by foreign powers, some of them openly critical of the outcome.

Most analysts expect the Constitutional Court to validate Mr. Tshesekedi’s election, and the inauguration is planned for Jan 22. What happens next is hard to predict.

There have been few reports of violence despite repeated warnings, in a country that has never seen a peaceful transfer of power, let alone one through the ballot box. (Mr. Kabila himself became president after his father, a rebel leader turned head of state, was assassinated.)

The residents of Kinshasa have gone about their business, despite an internet shutdown that has now lasted three weeks — the government said it was intended to stop the spread of false information and speculation before the election, but critics say it was a move to prevent opponents from organizing demonstrations. The city’s traffic is as chaotic as ever, and yellow minibuses zoom past billboards advertising skin-bleaching creams and “American water.”

There seems little appetite for the sort of violent uprisings that Congo has seen in the recent past. Throngs of supporters ambled Sunday in front of the headquarters of Mr. Tshisekedi’s party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, rebuilt after the attack two years ago. “It was shocking,” recalled Dady Mutahali, 42. “We wish for these things to never repeat again.”

Looking ahead, the most probable scenario, analysts say, is that the Constitutional Court, presided over by Mr. Kabila’s former chief of staff, will receive Mr. Fayulu’s appeal but rule that it is unfounded. Mr. Fayulu is required to gather evidence, like counting tally sheets from thousands of polling stations — a task made even more difficult by the shutdown of the internet. It is unclear whether he can manage this in the limited time he has been given.

“The court is controlled by the regime, and is going to try give the semblance of credibility to justice,” said Israel Mutala, the editor in chief of 7sur7, a major news site in the country. Still, “there is some form of change,” he said, adding that Congo “has not yet reached democratic maturity, but it has crossed a threshold.”

Pierre Lumbi, an adviser to Mr. Fayulu, said in an interview that if the court rejected the opposition leader’s appeal, the party would call for peaceful demonstrations.

While Mr. Fayulu pursues his appeal, Mr. Tshisekedi, the son of one of the country’s most prominent opposition leaders, is negotiating with Mr. Kabila. The discussions include a possible grant of immunity for any alleged political and financial crimes, according to analysts and some news reports.

The government has denied those reports. Mr. Tshesekedi’s supporters say he is a strategist who is simply biding his time before consolidating power and making changes.

Mr. Kabila has always denied wrongdoing, but he and his family have long been dogged by reports of fortunes squirreled away in offshore holdings. Some of his entourage, including the man he chose as his successor, Emmanuel Shadary, are listed on European and American sanctions lists.

But the elections forced Mr. Kabila to choose between two opposition figures, and Mr. Tshisekedi was considered to be more palatable than Mr. Fayulu because of his backers, analysts said. Mr. Fayulu had the support of two prominent opposition figures who were themselves barred from running for office, one for a war crimes-related conviction and the other for what supporters dismissed as manufactured criminal charges. One of them, Moïse Katumbi, a billionaire in exile in South Africa, was once an associate of Mr. Kabila but became his sworn enemy, apparently after falling out over a business deal.

A Fayulu victory would have meant a victory for Mr. Katumbi, Mr. Mutala said, adding, “The president and his political family have made it clear that Moïse Katumbi will never accede to power.”

Mr. Kabila’s party dominated legislative elections that took place at the same time as the presidential vote. That gives it a majority in Parliament and the power to appoint a prime minister, who in controlling cabinet appointments arguably wields greater power than the president.

Mr. Tshisekedi would be likely to make concessions, analysts said, such as leaving to Mr. Kabila’s party plum ministries like the security forces, mining and finance, areas that President Kabila and his entourage are said to have capitalized on to amass extraordinary wealth over the years.

To provide incentives for President Kabila to step down, the Parliament has approved a number of perks for former presidents, including a large measure of legal immunity and the designation of senator for life. “The architecture is built for Kabila to retain huge influence even outside the presidency,” wrote Hans Hoebeke, a Congo analyst at the International Crisis Group, in a report in August.

“Joseph Kabila,” another analyst, Adeline Van Houtte, with the Economist Intelligence Unit, said, “is likely to become the future Senate president, which means he would retain significant control.”

Nevertheless, he said, “we need to work together to build the future.”

President Kabila may be forced to make certain concessions, such as giving up his vast holdings of land, property and businesses across the country, Mr. Mutala said. President Kabila, according to Jeune Afrique, an online magazine, is expected to remain in his presidential palace while Mr. Tshisekedi would live in the current residence reserved for the prime minister.

Mr. Tshisekedi, for his part, said that one of his first actions would be to return the remains of his father, Etienne Tshisekedi, whose corpse has been languishing in a morgue in Belgium since his death two years ago.

Tshisekedi père, as some call him affectionately, was so popular for having fought Mobutu, a dictator and kleptocrat backed by the United States, that the Kabila government worried that bringing back his body would be enough to trigger a popular uprising.

But few Congolese want to see a repeat of the large-scale violence that erupted after elections in 2006 and 2011, as well as 2016, when President Kabila refused to step down after his constitutionally-mandated two-term limit ended. He finally did last year, putting forward Mr. Shadary, who was dealt such a spectacular defeat that Mr. Kabila was forced to choose between the two opposition candidates in an effort to avoid sparking widespread unrest and outright international condemnation.

“The Congolese aspire to peace,” said Mr. Mutala. The economy has languished in a country that, paradoxically, is rich in natural resources, but most of its population lives on about a dollar. The killings of hundreds of protesters over the years have exhausted a nation traumatized by state-led violence and impoverishment, he said.

“In the name of peace, they are ready to close their eyes on some irregularities that have marred the electoral process,” Mr. Mutala said. “Politics in Congo is a game that is exciting, but dangerous,” he said, adding after a pause. “Very dangerous.”

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What Africa’s Oldest Liberation Movement can Offer South Africans

The launch of the ANC’s election manifesto is a moment to examine several aspects of our society. The party, still, has the biggest network of people on the ground. It is a moment to look at the balance of power within the party, as the manifesto should reflect various ideological and political strains within such a broad movement. After a careful reading of the entire document, one aim stands above the rest: this is a document designed to help the ANC continue claiming the middle ground, a bet that South Africa will continue choosing long-term sanity over short-term populist rhetoric.

The focus on Saturday, understandably, was on the televised speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Moses Mabidha Stadium, and on a rather long embrace between himself and former President Jacob Zuma.

While all of that was happening, the ANC released three separate documents. The first was the text of Ramaphosa’s address itself, the same words that he was reading on his iPad. The second was the official January 8th Statement of the ANC’s national executive committee. The third was a glossy election manifesto pamphlet, aimed directly at voters, many photographs of Ramaphosa (no images of Zuma, or, notably, even Deputy President David Mabuza).

The pamphlet is probably the most important document in terms of how it may demonstrate which concerns the ANC is responding to; it is a demonstration of the public face of the party during these polls.

However, in terms of analysing the internal dynamics of the party, the NEC statement is probably the most important document.

The ANC says that it drew up these documents after listening to its members and conducting research. The manifesto has all the hallmarks of a “well-polled” document. All of the issues discussed in traditional and social media are there, the problems in schools, in hospitals, the issues with civil servants generally and the resentment that appears to be bubbling in some quarters against foreign nationals.

This suggests that the ANC is listening to people, there is no focus on issues that actually don’t necessarily matter that much to voters. It may also suggest that, behind the scenes, those who actually manage the party’s machinery are very aware of how much of an effort will need to be put in to win the polls, and to win them convincingly. And of course, those around Ramaphosa will know how important to his own internal standing an overwhelming victory will be.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the official NEC statement is the land. In the public domain, the debate about expropriation without compensation has, inevitably perhaps, come to be dominated by the extremes of the debate. Yet, the language in the statement appears rather moderate. It merely states that “Parliament has undertaken extensive public consultation on land expropriation without compensation, in line with the resolutions of the ANC’s 54th National Conference. The ANC-led government has led the process around a far-reaching programme of accelerated land reform through an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Deputy President and a Presidential advisory panel on land reform”.

In the pamphlet, it actually goes slightly further, making two points. It says:

“We will support the amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution to clearly define the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can take place. This should be done in a way that promotes economic development, agricultural production and food security,” and…

“We will submit the revised Expropriation Bill to Parliament to provide explicit circumstances under which land expropriation in the public interest may happen without compensation. The Bill will ensure that laws regulating expropriation will include the principle of expropriation without compensation through just and equitable provisions set out in the Constitution.”

It is interesting that the pamphlet appears to go further than the NEC statement. Generally speaking, in both cases, the language is quite mild. This may suggest that the ANC does not believe the land issue is the most dominant issue for most voters. Obviously, this is, and will be, hugely contested, and is likely to be denied by many within the party. There will also be those who hope that the mildness of the language suggests that Ramaphosa has successfully managed to lower the temperature on this even further. It may also be that all the factions in the ANC are also aware of what might be the biggest stumbling block to major change; that a new constitutional clause could only comprise around 20 words, and an NEC that is almost perfectly divided is unlikely to agree on any 20 words very easily, let alone on such a crucial point as the land issue.

Either way, for investors, the headline may, in fact, be that there is no radical promise from the ANC to expropriate land quickly as a way of winning votes. For them, that is surely an important message.

One of the other intriguing elements in Ramaphosa’s speech was that the ANC will continue to encourage various forms of land ownership, “including public, private, co-operative, family and communal”. There is absolutely no hint of nationalising land here. The idea of nationalising land is currently the official policy of the EFF, as well as the stated preference of former president Zuma, who refuses to ride into the sunset.

All of the documents speak at length about the economy and jobs, about the lack of investment in the economy, and promise a plan to see that R1.2-trillion is invested over the next five years. The number is massive, roughly the same size as government’s annual budget. A quick look around you, though, may demonstrate how much that investment is needed. It’s needed in Eskom, hospitals, schools, water facilities, dams, roads, literally in everything that government touches.

Key to this, however, is investor confidence, both local and foreign. Financial Mail reported in 2018 on research that shows the top 50 corporates on the JSE alone have cash reserves of R1.4-trillion. This is money that is not being invested, it is merely earning interest, rather than being put back into the economy to generate growth for all. The reason, of course, is that these corporations do not have the confidence to invest in South Africa. The job of a responsible government, in this case, the ANC and Ramaphosa, is to sustain and grow that confidence, to take steps to get them to unleash the cash.

There will be some, within the ANC, as well as many from outside of it, who will say that there should be a system of prescribed assets, or that these firms should be forced, in some way, to invest their free funds. That would, of course, create long-term instability that would first and foremost punish ordinary citizens. Even just a hint of such a move could cause investors’ flight and playing with that sentiment is playing with fire.

What is clear from all of the documents is that the ANC is very much aware that the priority for most people in South Africa is jobs. But both their 2009 and 2014 manifestos promised large numbers of jobs. The 2009 manifesto ran into the hard realities of the global financial crisis, and the impact of Eskom’s load shedding. The 2014 manifesto appears to have run into a slowing economy, and was mightily aided by the crippling reality of State Capture.

Through it all have been the problems that the ANC has had in crafting economic policy. This has always been, and perhaps will still be, the party’s biggest problem, because it is such a broad church.

It is difficult to know if voters will buy the jobs promise for the third time. Much here may rest, in the end, on the shoulders of Ramaphosa himself, and his ability to create business sector confidence and the majority of voters’ trust.

It is also clear that the ANC’s research is showing up that many voters are deeply unhappy with the civil service. Much is made, in all of the documents, about the need for government workers to actually do their jobs quickly and competently. As the NEC puts it:

“Land claims must be processed faster, title deeds must be provided quicker. Housing projects must be completed on time. Textbooks must reach all learners, and clinics must provide medical services and medicines to those who need them. The police service and the criminal justice system must respond timeously to the cries of our people.”

Stories abound about the lack of service from government workers, and a distinct lack of civility. However, the underlying reasons that led to this situation have not changed. It is all to do with the ANC’s relationship with Cosatu and the entire structure of the tripartite alliance. While there were suggestions in 2018 that government and the ANC were preparing to lay off unproductive workers, that entire issue appears to have gone quiet.

In the end, it all boils down to the same calculation. Do the ANC and Ramaphosa have what it takes to take on the unions, to stare them down? In the past, the party has not been able to do this. Even Zuma, at the height of his power, was unable to force teachers to “be in class, on time, teaching, for seven hours a day”. And the SA Democratic Teachers Union was able to frustrate attempts to introduce external inspectors.

However, it is clear that the ANC is speaking from research to back up the claim from Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo that “we have to realign for us to be more effective and more efficient. Otherwise, people will vote this ANC out of power”.

As an aside in all of this, the NEC statement discusses the civil service, and then adds this comment:

“We include in this call the brave men and women in the media whose ethical and professional work has made it possible for our society to unearth the misdeeds that threatened to destroy our hard-won democracy.”

A moment of praise for the media from the NEC of the ANC is, to the knowledge of this reporter, completely unprecedented. In the past, during both the Zuma and Mbeki eras, the NEC may have publicly admonished the media, but never praised it. This is suggestive of how important the reporting of State Capture was to Ramaphosa’s ultimate (and close) victory at Nasrec. Some in the media may also interpret this as encouragement to keep unearthing wrongdoing by public officials.

The suggestions that Ramaphosa would announce big changes in education appear to have been correct, as he said that the ANC would look to ensure that children were being prepared for the changing demands of the world of work. His comments about how people need to understand how to use things like block-chain came with some credibility from someone who will only deliver his speeches from his iPad, and whose son is running an internet business. At the very least, it is an indication that some in the ANC understand how the world is changing, and how so many of our children are being left behind by those changes.

A moment that was perhaps unforgettable from Ramaphosa’s speech was his request for all of the men in the stadium to stand up, and commit to stopping gender violence, to stop attacks by men on women. The NEC’s language was equally emotional, saying that “we must hang our heads in shame that even as we make progress in forging a non-sexist society, too many women and girls face unprecedented levels of abuse, violence and murder – often by those closest to them”.

Certainly, this has become a major issue in society, and the ANC is correct to bring it up. The party deserves huge applause for changing the position of women in our society, it has surely done more than any other movement in this regard. However, its internal politics have led to a situation where someone like Mduduzi Manana almost had to be forced to resign as an MP after being convicted of hitting a woman, and then being accused of assaulting a second woman; where it took two years to charge former ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman with sexual assault where prima facia evidence was published in media in mid-2016, and where even the ANC spokesman, Pule Mabe, had to be suspended for alleged sexual misconduct. This is also a consequence of many elements of our society, including entrenched patriarchy. It is going to be very difficult to root out these problems.

One of the issues that comes up time and time again in all spheres of media is that of xenophobia. Radio talk shows can fill up with callers fulminating on the foreign nationals question if it is brought up in the slightest way. The fact that the DA is making this an election issue demonstrates that their polling data shows that this is of great importance for many South Africans. Herman Mashaba’s Twitter strategy is a further example of this.

The ANC’s election manifesto pamphlet addresses the issue in this way:

“Undocumented migration has an adverse impact on national security. We should ensure that those who come to South African do so legally and that the country knows what they do while they are in the country.”

It is clear that the ANC is following the demands of its voters in this case. It also can’t be left out in the cold by the other parties. While there may be those who could ask the party to take the higher ground on this issue, that may be difficult to do in such a contested election. However, it may also be trying to avoid making foreign nationals a major election issue, if only because raising temperatures on this issue is unlikely to end well for anyone trying to occupy the sane middle ground.

In the final analysis (for now), the ANC’s election manifesto attempts to do what the ANC often does – to occupy the political middle ground. It has been able to do this successfully for many years. But now it faces more pressure from both the left and the right than it has in the past. There is surely plenty of space for Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters to attack from the left, particularly on the issue of land.

The DA, which is also trying to make itself a party of the political middle of South Africa, may find this manifesto more difficult to respond to. Luthuli House is probably quite comfortable with that.

Daily Maverick

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