Friday, 06 January 2017 08:35

IOO Western Indian Ocean perspectives 2017

What do we expect of 2017? The year is still fresh and plenty lies in store for this region. Is the Western Indian Ocean region expecting much change? Here at the IOO, our expert team has spent the last three months sifting through political, social, economic and environmental developments and trends within the Western Indian Ocean. The result is the “IOO Western Indian Ocean Perspectives 2017”. For the next three weeks we will share our findings on how the region is likely to react and respond in this year. Our analysis covers the recent past and delves on the expectations of the next 12 months. Our coverage focuses on the political developments, traverses the economic prospects and features key personalities in the Indian Ocean together with core issues whose repercussions are global. 

South Africa – losing an opportunity for greatness


Back in the day, the African National Congress (ANC) was a party admired across the world. It encouraged inclusivity, meritocracy and oozed with boundless hope. ANC enters 2017 bleeding. The party is no longer an icon of admiration in Africa. The very liberation ideals that bespoke its boldness are severely seared and almost tearing apart. 

ANC is now mired in never-ending scandals touching on its leaders. It is largely accused of abandoning the liberation ideals it fought for and setting South Africa on a collision path with its “Rainbow Nations” aspirations. Insensitivity within the party ranks and what appears to be state capture by influential business barons is eroding the confidence that ANC enjoyed in the liberation years and during the Nelson Mandela presidency.

This is the state of the ANC with President Jacob Zuma at the helm. While the ANC administration suffered domestically, South African interests across the continent are also lacking the gravitas they previously enjoyed a decade ago. Even within SADC the leverage enjoyed by South Africa seems to be waning. South Africa has failed to provide leadership and the brinkmanship in Mozambique is a case in point. The very ideals that propelled South Africa to lobby Madagascar to a peaceful transition are no longer evident in the Mozambican case where the civil war wounds of FRELIMO and RENAMO are now festering again.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has been plagued by scandals which are harming ANCs stature [Image: CC]

South Africa’s second continental and regional failure was evident in mid-2016 during the AU Heads of State summit in Kigali, Rwanda. South Africa’s lobbying prowess displayed when it marshaled much of Africa four years earlier to vote in Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma was absent to propel the SADC candidate to become the new AU chief. Botswana’s Pelonomi Venson Moitoi who is SADCs candidate seeking to succeed Dhlamini Zuma in the principle that SADC must lead the AU for two terms couldn’t muster the necessary two-thirds votes to clinch the seat. Neither of Moitoi’s challengers’ Agapito Mba Mokuy from Equatorial Guinea and Uganda’s Specioza Kazibwe could secure the votes.

The AU election is now set for late January 2017 and the entry of Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily and Kenya’s Amina Mohammed will test South Africa’s continental credentials and its loyalty to SADC. Apart from the continental front, South Africa has also suffered in its BRICS association by sacrificing much especially in its poultry sector.

Domestically 2017 may be a defining moment for the ANC as it begins to lose its internal fervor which in turn spills over severely damaging South Africa’s international standing and denying it an opportunity for greatness.

Tanzania – Nyerere’s spirit alive and kicking

President John Pombe Magufuli is a no-nonsense man.  And this has endeared him to many not just in Tanzania but across the continent. Even though President Magufuli appears preoccupied with the domestic front and the common needs within Tanzanian borders, it is becoming crystal clear that Tanzania is readjusting its foreign policy as well and playing an anchor role across the continent. 

Africa’s Rising Star President John Magufuli of Tanzania, when he hosted India’s PM Narendra Modi in Dar in 2016 [Image: CC]

This aspect became clear when President Magufuli upstaged Kenya in securing a lucrative oil pipeline from Uganda when key movers in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government had all but assumed that the Ugandan pipeline was already in Kenya’s bag. Through this diplomatic coup President Magufuli scattered the nascent triumvirate coalition made of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda who had dubbed themselves “Coalition of the Willing” (CoW) with a single aim of fast-tracking regional integration through infrastructure projects. This coalition referred by analysts as “East African Cheetahs” due in large measure for their speed to launch mega infrastructure projects had sidelined Tanzania and Burundi who had been seen as slowing down the region’s progress. At the height of the CoW razzmatazz Tanzania and Burundi were dubbed “Tortoises” and the denigrating euphemism was all too evident. 

President Magufuli’s second coup against the “CoW” trio was when he had his way regarding the ascendancy of Burundi to head the East African Community (EAC). In 2017 Tanzania’s leader  who has never hidden his admiration for his country’s Founding Father Julius Nyerere is expected to continue in his tempo to infuse sensitivity and service delivery within Tanzanian public service, not to mention demanding a fair share of profits from multinationals operating in Tanzania. 

However President Magufuli and Tanzania’s well established but hitherto unrecognised diplomatic savvy is expected to play a major role in picking Nkosazana Zuma’s successor as the African Union Commission’s (AUC) chairperson during the Heads of State summit in Ethiopia later in January. 

Kenya – Election Fever: Will region catch a cold?

This western Indian Ocean nation will be gripped by a high-octane election fever in much of 2017.  All eyes will be transfixed on the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his main challenger veteran opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

President Uhuru Kenyatta pictured with the Obamas is seeking a second term as Kenya’s President [Image: CC]

A year after President Uhuru succeeded President Mwai Kibaki, he enjoyed massive local and international appeal even being recognized as Africa’s most influential person across the continent. Eight months to the elections and President Uhuru has lost his continental mantle to his older Tanzanian counterpart President John Magufuli. His administration has been plagued by corruption and a long-list of unfulfilled pledges.  And as he prepares for what had initially been assumed to be a “walk-over” election guaranteeing him a second term, it is clear President Uhuru will be fighting hard to secure a second term. The fourth Kenyan president has not helped matters especially as he has lately chosen a combative posture approaching what may just turn out to be a volatile election.  On several occasions the unnecessary intervention of the clergy and the diplomatic corps has been occasioned by hardline postures adopted by the opposition and government on key issues surrounding the August 2017 polls. As the country prepares for general elections in August 2017, the scenario does not in any way resemble that of 2013 instead fears of the 2007 elections have been voiced. 

Peaceful elections remain a key challenge and failure to safeguard fair polls free of skirmishes will see the region which depends on Kenya’s infrastructure shouldering the implications of scarcity of goods and being cut off from essential services. This heavily burdensome and loss filled scenario of the region suffering a “cold” from Kenya’s “cough” was evident in 2007.

At the regional, continental and international levels Kenya no longer calls the shots and its leading economic stature in the region has already been outfoxed by Ethiopia. The country has lost its pride as “East Africa’s largest economy” to its northern neighbour, Ethiopia. Secondly, all is not well at the regional bloc East African Community (EAC) based in Arusha, Tanzania after Kenya was railroaded by Tanzania in securing a lucrative oil pipeline to transport Uganda’s oil to the Indian Ocean port of Tanga in Tanzania. Diplomatically, Kenya’s main allies of Uganda and Rwanda seem to have abandoned Nairobi. Uganda’s choice of Tanzania as its preferred oil pipeline route has led to icy relations between Nairobi and Kampala.

This loss of diplomatic clout by Kenya is likely to play out in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Should this happen it will badly affect Amina Mohammed the Kenyan foreign minister fronted by President Kenyatta when the AU Heads of States summit meets at the end of January. The main agenda in the AU Addis Ababa summit will be the election of a new African Union (AU) chairperson to succeed outgoing Dhlamini Zuma.

Mozambique –  Will President Nyussi redeem Mozambique

Mozambique possesses great wealth.  Compared to other countries in the region Mozambique is way ahead however the recent oil and gas finds in the region have redefined Mozambique.And just as it was about to start reengineering its economy to become a natural resources producer of oil, gas and coal the age-old ghosts of civil war reared their hydra ugly heads again. 

President Felipe Nyussi leading the Frente de Libertercao de Mocambique (FRELIMO – Mozambican Liberation Front) government has found himself surrounded by negotiators seeking to make peace with erstwhile foes RENAMO. While many expected a renewed and proud Mozambique to rise with its new found wealth, the olden narrative of trouble seems to be tying down Maputo from ever rising. Indeed President Nyussi’s major challenge is how to overcome internal self-serving interests and give Mozambique its pride of place in the African continent.

RENAMO Leader Afonso Dhlakama is at the centre of the impasse in Mozambique [Image: CC]

With two former retired presidents still alive it is not yet clear why Mozambique is on a path of self destruction. The influence enjoyed by President Armando Guebuza and President Joaquim Chissano together with that of Graca Machel, is missing in the current Mozambican narrative. Echoes of civil instability led by Resistensia Nacional Mocambicana (Portuguese for RENAMO – Mozambican National Resistance) are gaining traction by the day owing to FRELIMO’s hardliners. The current impasse started in 2013 but a negotiated settlement saw a cessation of hostilities to pave way for elections which RENAMO lost. At the heart of the renewed civil strife is the control of the central and northern regions which RENAMO wants. The six provinces of Nampula, Niassa, Manica, Sofala, Zambezia and Tete are contested by RENAMO which wants full control of these provinces. RENAMO led by Afonso Marceta  Macacho Dhlakama has been accused by President Nyusi of holding Mozambican progress hostage and refusing to give peace a chance. As at present a 60-day peace truce is in place between RENAMO’s armed wing and the Mozambican military to facilitate peace negotiations.

The current impasse has been traced back to the unanswered issues of the 1992 Rome General Peace Accord. Mozambique attained her independence from Portugal in 1975 and FRELIMO led by Samora Machel took over power. Two years after independence civil war broke out between the pro-Communism FRELIMO and the anti-communist RENAMO. The civil war said to have claimed over 1.5million lives ended in 1992  

Comoros: Assoumani’s second chance

Comorians elected President Azali Assoumani to succeed retiring President Ikililou Dhoinine over the preferred candidate former Vice president Mohammed Ali Soilihi. 

President Assoumani knows what makes Comoros ticks. He knows the entire firmament that is Comoros. After all, he was once the president of this Indian Ocean island nation which shares a maritime border with France through the French overseas department of Reunion. 

Elected in May 2016 President Assoumani who had previously led Comoros in 1999 after engineering a military coup overthrowing acting President Tadjidine Ben Said Massounde has an opportunity of turning around the fortunes of his nation.

Comoros President Azali Assoumani with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysse Palace [Image: CC-ElyseePalace] 

President Assoumani’s biggest challenge is to transform Comoros and make Moroni a must-visit destination of choice. Enjoying the benefit of relative stability which started during President Abdallah Sambi and continued through President Dhoinine’s years, President Assoumani must redefine Comoros international stature and uplift the prevailing domestic situation which has seen this country ranked amongst the most poor in the world. 

Indeed a key virtue that propelled President Assoumani from the periphery was his campaign platform for improved and higher lifestyles standards. This is what saw him turning the tables on Soilihi who had been tipped to win. With such goodwill President Assoumani is bound to rev up Comoros out of the cold. Other than adding value to the country’s promising agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors, Assoumani will need to maximize on the goodwill the country enjoys from the Gulf Cooperation, Iran and China together with former colonial power France to transform Comoros. He will need to rush up his development agenda before his term ends This is his ultimate challenge apart from reclaiming the white stripe in Comoros flag which represents Mayotte, Comoro’s “second star”.

[Next week in IOO Western Indian Ocean Perspectives 2017: Somalia, Seychelles, Eritrea, Djibouti, Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar]

Read 625 times Last modified on Friday, 06 January 2017 09:29

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