The head of Africa forecasting at Exclusive Analysis considers some of the main policy trends to watch this month

This is Africa OnlineBy NATZNET TESFAY

The head of Africa forecasting at Exclusive Analysis considers some of the main policy trends to watch this month



The first round of voting has taken place

On 25 May, a Muslim Brotherhood representative said that 90 percent of polling stations had been counted, and that run-off elections would be held between its own Freedom and Justice party candidate Mohammed Morsi and the Mubarak-era Prime Minister Marshall Ahmad Shafiq, supported by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). While these are not official results, it is unlikely that any candidates obtained the 50 percent or more of the vote required to bypass run-off elections.

The run-offs are scheduled to be held on 16 and 17 June 2012. If a run-off election takes place involving Ahmad Shafiq, who is seen by secular and Islamist protesters as a symbol of Mubarak-era corruption, and Mohammad Morsi, we assess that secular protesters would be very likely to organise anti-SCAF demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities. The MB is likely to at least wait until a winner is declared to participate in protests. However, if the SCAF issues amendments to the interim constitution aimed at limiting civilian control of the military prior to the election of a president, this would indicate an increased risk of protests with MB participation, even prior to the announcement of results.



MNLA rebels have declared an independent state in Northern Mali

On 19 May, the rebel group Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the Salafi armed group Ansar al-Din (AD) agreed to form a government for the self-declared independent state of Azawad. Both groups, primarily composed of Tuareg, seized control of northern Mali following the 22 March military coup in Bamako. The agreement reportedly included a commitment by AD to combat al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) presence in northern Mali.

Rebel control of the north has been accompanied by an increased presence of AQIM and its dissident faction, Mujao, around Timbuktu and Kidal, and the arrival of foreign jihadist fighters. Pakistani jihadist trainers are reported to have arrived in the Kidal region within a month of the takeover. The strengthened AQIM presence results from its association with AD, founded on ideological affinity and long-standing personal relationships between the two groups. While AD opposes AQIM in public, as indicated by its recent declaration condemning kidnapping, it is unlikely to break with AQIM outright, especially as the relationship provides it with a recruitment base amongst Arabs opposed to MNLA’s secessionist agenda.

The MNLA and AD are unlikely to reconcile their divergent political agendas. The MNLA would probably be willing to compromise over its demand for secession to accommodate AD’s preference for autonomy within an Islamic Mali. But the MNLA as a whole is unlikely to accept adoption of Sharia, as sought by AD. Therefore, the MNLA is unlikely to acquire the necessary support to force out AQIM, unless it forms an unlikely alliance with anti-secessionist armed groups.

AQIM and its affiliates will likely retain the ability to use northern Mali as a base. Southern Algeria and Mauritania will be likely priority targets for IED attacks, particularly against military targets, with increased use of suicide bombers, as used by Mujao on 3 March 2012 in an attack on the National Police headquarters in Tamanrasset, southern Algeria. Kidnap risks to foreigners will also increase in northern Mali and the central city of Mopti, as well as northern Niger and Burkina Faso. Risks of IED attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso, primarily targeting government, would increase significantly if, as is increasingly likely in the six-month outlook, ECOWAS deploys troops with a mandate to use force in support of the Malian government.



Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos

On 17 May 2012, the Angolan Supreme Court ruled against the decision of the High Council of Judicial Magistrate to endorse the appointment of Suzana Inglês as head of the National Electoral Commission. Inglês’ appointment had become a focus for opposition parties and student protesters over the past four months over claims that she would not be impartial due to her close alliance with the ruling MPLA party. The UNITA and PRS opposition parties filed a lawsuit against the appointment. The Supreme Court’s decision came two days ahead of planned nationwide protests by UNITA and 10 days before protests planned by a group of ex-soldiers.

The government’s acceptance of the Supreme Court’s decision is likely to appease opposition and other activist groups to a degree; however, this is unlikely to significantly reduce the risk of protests ahead of the September 2012 legislative elections. There remains a substantial level of mistrust over their organisation.

West African Telecommunications Sector

Foreign telecom firms are likely to face frequent fines, contract review and stricter regulations to address concerns over tax evasion and poor service delivery. On 22 May 2012, the Uganda Communications Commission said that within two weeks it would announce whether telecommunications operators would be fined for poor service delivery. This follows punitive actions by the Nigerian and Ghanaian governments against the telecommunications sector in the last two months. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest telecoms market, with foreign companies repatriating profits and benefiting from market growth. This, alongside poor quality of service and preferential treatment for expatriate workers, has led to a perception of exploitation among the local population. As a result, the government is likely to review existing regulations, increase local participation and oversight within the sector and impose arbitrary taxation and more frequent fines.

On 3 May 2012, the Nigerian federal government announced that it would compel all telecommunication firms to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange. Telecoms firms that fail to comply will face increased expropriation risks. On 8 March, Nigerian MPs called for South African firms, including MTN, to be sanctioned following the deportation of 125 Nigerians, including a serving Senator, from South Africa. And on 11 May, the Nigerian Communications Commission levied combined fines of $7.4 million on MTN Nigeria and three other GSM networks for providing poor service to mobile phone users.

In Ghana, the National Communication Authority (NCA) has accused telecom firms of tax evasion and they have been partly blamed for the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar due to their forex remittance as well as poor service delivery. The NCA plans to generate $200 million from tariffs on incoming international calls over the next three years and telecom firms are likely to face increasing pressure from the government to increase revenue and improve service, particularly ahead of elections in December 2012. Defaulting telecom firms are at risk of receiving high fines or having their contract reviewed. Foreign firms, namely Vodafone, MTN and Expresso, are likely targets.


Posted on June 14, 2012, in Arab Spring, Morocco News, Sahara, Sahel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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