Four days after 10 million Kenyans cast their votes in a presidential election watched around the world, the country is still waiting for the final results, expected late tonight.
By Friday evening local Kenyan time, Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta led the race with 51 percent of the vote. His closest opponent, incumbent Raila Odinga, had 42 percent, according to the Daily Nation in Nairobi. (The electoral commission says they still need to audit the results after the count is complete.)
That tips Mr. Kenyatta into the absolute majority, which, if the count holds up, would give him an outright victory and eliminate the need for a runoff next month. But even if Kenyatta manages that feat, the results will likely be challenged in court by Mr. Odinga, who alleged Thursday that there was vote-doctoring in the hand recount that began after an expensive electronic ballot-counting system failed Tuesday night.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Mr. Odinga’s running mate in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), issued the allegations, contending that the emerging vote tally from a recount that began Wednesday is not accurate.
"We have evidence the results we're receiving are being doctored,” Mr. Musyoka told a news conference in Nairobi on Thursday. In several counties, he says, the number of votes cast appears to be higher than the number of registered voters.
For many observers, the allegations were eerily familiar. Odinga was also a candidate in the last presidential election, in 2007, and his well-founded assertion then that the vote had been doctored helped touch off six terrifying weeks of violence across the country, eventually leaving more than 1,100 dead and 600,000 displaced.
To add another historical wrinkle to the current race, Kenyatta – the son of the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta – currently faces charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court for his own role in the 2007-08 violence.
This time around, Kenyatta is also claiming irregularities with the vote-counting process. On Wednesday, his Jubilee Coalition charged that the British High Commission had intervened in a “shadowy, suspicious manner” in the electoral process by pushing for several hundred thousand initially rejected ballots to be included in the recount. The Commission summarily denied the charge.
In the run-up to the election, Kenya’s electoral commission rolled out an expensive new electronic vote tallying system meant to boost the transparency of the counting process and avoid the accusations of rigging that tipped the country into violence six years ago.
As the Monitor reported Wednesday:
For this election, a new system was developed to transmit results electronically directly from each of the 33,400 polling stations countrywide to the national tally center in Nairobi. Local election officials were given mobile phones to transmit results using software designed to communicate only with a central server, which was supposed to upload all the results to one database that the public could see.
But by late Tuesday, electoral officials had switched it off.
Instead, returning officers from all 290 constituencies were ordered to hurry to Nairobi, the capital, physically carrying the forms that tallied the votes in their polling centers. These are now being collated at the national level.
Even as the wait for results stretched on, however, the mood in the country remained mostly calm. Aside from a few scattered deaths reported on election day, the most noticeable change wrought by the election process was the emptying of many of the country’s normally bustling streets.
Schools closed last Thursday and will not reopen until March 11, and many bus and taxi drivers chose to stay off the streets in the days following the vote as a precaution – many vehicles were torched and destroyed in the 2007 violence.
On Twitter, Kenyans mixed calls for peace with jokes about foreign coverage of the election, which many felt leaned toward the sensationalist and simplistic. All week, the hashtag #tweetlikeaforeignjournalist trended as users took shots at the foreign correspondents who flooded into Nairobi in the days leading up to the vote.
“BREAKING: Foreign reporters clash in #Kenya amid growing scarcity of bad news,” wrote one user.
“Foreign Journalists stranded in their hotels as peace makes it hard for them to do their job,” tweeted another.
Don’t look for a story that isn’t there, the chorus of tweeters seemed to implore as the country waited on pins and needles for the final results Friday.
After all, for Kenya today, no news is good news.
This piece comes from an Africa Monitor guest blogger. The views expressed are the author's own.
On Feb. 24th, 11 countries from Africa's Great Lakes region signed a peace framework aimed at bringing greater security to one of the most tumultuous places on the planet, the eastern Congo. Not an official peace deal or treaty, it is rather a 2-1/2 page “vision document” – light on specifics, but with a few elements that could prove potent in setting the future political and military agenda for the Congo and its neighbors.
Here’s what you need to know:
Who signed this document?
The signatories are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. While many of these nations have been intertwined in larger multi-state wars in past decades, and all are affected by regional disruption, the current conflict the document addresses is staged primarily in eastern Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda. Since 1998, an estimated 5.4 million people have lost their lives to war and war-related causes in the Great Lakes Region.
What are the goals of the new peace framework?
The 11 countries signatory to the document commit not to interfere with internal affairs of neighbors, not to assist armed groups, to respect sovereignty and borders, to work towards regional cooperation, and not to harbor war criminals or those accused of crimes against humanity.
In the current context, the armed group making trouble for Congo's neighbors is the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). The FDLR has at times thrived in Congo and often attacked Rwanda across the border. Composed primarily of Rwandan Hutus, the group vehemently opposes their nation's Tutsi-led government. They have received support from the Congo in the past and been involved in the region's conflict since 2000.
In addition to dealing with armed groups like the FDLR, the Congo pledges in the peace framework to support security sector and governmental reform, reconciliation and democratization, economic development, and preventing armed groups from destabilizing neighboring countries.
Finally, within the framework, the international community (specifically the United Nations and the African Union) says it will support the peace process, work towards economic revitalization, strengthen the UN Peacekeeping Force (MONUSCO) in support of the government and security, and appoint a UN special envoy to support peace in the region. Additionally, several oversight bodies will meet to review progress.
How innovative are these plans?
None of the goals outlined in the framework are at all new. They have all been expounded in various other agreements. For example, in 2004 the United Nations and the African Union established the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region aimed at promoting peace and stability. At the conclusion of the Conference's first meeting, the core countries of the Great Lakes signed the Dar es Salaam Declaration in which they pledged their determination to promote greater security in the region, reaffirmed their commitment to human rights, and promised interstate cooperation in areas such as security, democracy, and good governance.
This Declaration was followed in 2006 by the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region. Signed by member states, it reaffirmed the region's commitment to stability and peace, with added protocols that renounced the use of force as policy or instrument of settling disagreements or achieving national objectives, and forbid members from sending or supporting armed opposition forces onto the territory of other states.
In both the agreements in 2004 and 2006, follow-up and oversight mechanisms were developed to ensure signatories adhered to their commitments. Both agreements gave rise to positive rhetoric.
“Open war has come to an end, and dialogue has become the method of resolving conflicts,” said President Kabila of the Congo in 2006.
Then, in 2007 and 2008, Kinshasa met with the Rwandans to define details for the disarmament and demobilization of the FDLR operating in eastern Congo. But disarmament never succeeded – due to a combination of lack of political will and lack of resources – and the FDLR still operates in eastern DRC.
Ok, so what is Rwanda’s role in the current Congo conflict?
As the Congo’s government has allied with FDLR, Rwanda has been accused of supporting the armed group M23, a force led by well-trained Rwandan and Congolese Tutsis active since April 2012. In November 2012, they seized the city of Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province. About two weeks later, M23 retreated and peace talks between the Congolese government and M23 have begun - although with no outcome thus far. (In the past few days, M23 has splintered; these two groups have been battling in North Kivu).
Is this document likely to make much of a dent on the ground?
Maybe. One of its most potent recommendations is the reinforcement of the UN’s peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, and the creation of an intervention brigade to join with the UN peacekeeping force. When M23 invaded Goma, MONUSCO was unable to intervene in large part because of their weak mandate – their role was limited to supporting the national army. When the army retreated, they were unable to act. This framework lays the foundations for enlarging MONUSCO's work, including peacekeeping within their scope.
Overall, the framework outlines some lofty and broad, but necessary goals for the region. It reiterates the need to focus on peace building in eastern Congo, and insists that regional governments stop interfering in the affairs of their neighbors. We'll begin to see the potential efficacy of this document in weeks to come with the creation of the UN special envoy to the region, and the commencement of oversight by regional and international actors. However, the real test, the possibility of this agreement having an actual influence on current conflict, begins in March when the Congolese government meets with M23 to continue negotiations.
On Mar. 5, 2012, the American nonprofit Invisible Children released a 30-minute video introducing an advocacy campaign called Kony2012, which pushed for the capture of central African warlord Joseph Kony.
What followed needs little introduction: Within a day, the video, with its slick production and magnetic emotional appeal, had 1 million views. A week later, it was closing in on 100 million. A warlord who had recruited tens of thousands of child soldiers and terrorized vast swaths of central Africa for nearly three decades was suddenly a household name in the United States.
But the criticism came nearly just as fast. The video simplified or outright lied about Kony and his current threat to the region, critics charged, and its calls for American intervention in the region were clunky, offensive, and neocolonialist. And the organization behind the video, Invisible Children, came under broader scrutiny for the low percentage of funds it devoted to on-the-ground peace-building work.
RECOMMENDED: 7 excellent books about Kony and the LRA
Ten days after the video went live, its lead creator, Invisible Children founder Jason Russell, suffered a bizarre mental breakdown, captured on camera, in which he ran naked and screaming along a San Diego street, vandalizing several cars. And a month later, the group’s “Cover the Night” campaign to blitz public spaces with images of Kony’s face was a high-profile flop. More marches and videos followed, but none matched the hype of the original documentary.
Now, a year after the original blitz of Kony2012 coverage, the legacy of the campaign is beginning to settle – and it is far more mixed than either its supporters or critics often acknowledge.
For its part, Invisible Children counts a number of successes. In a triumphant new video and website unveiled Tuesday, the organization reports that killings of civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army, Kony’s militia, are down sharply in the last year, and that two of its leading commanders have been captured or killed.
And whether or not Invisible Children can take credit for those facts, it has scored one undisputable campaign victory: In January, on the heels of a wave of Kony2012-related organizing, Congress passed the Rewards for Justice Bill, authorizing a reward of up to $5 million for information that could lead to the arrests of Kony or other war criminals.
But legislation meant to propel Kony’s capture also speaks to the campaign’s biggest failure: Invisible Children’s deadline for capturing the warlord – the end of 2012 – has passed, and Kony remains at large.
“When you put a deadline on something like this, it gives people a great sense of urgency,” says lawyer Ruha Devanesan, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society who has studied Invisible Children's reaction to the Kony2012 fallout. “But if you move past your self-imposed deadline and haven’t achieved that goal, it’s really problematic for the messaging.”
If Invisible Children wants to rebuild momentum around its cause in 2013, she says, it will have to rebrand. But that is something the organization has already proven itself highly capable of.
After all, she points out, this was an organization that – whether from a genuine change of heart or simple practicality – has reacted swiftly to many of the charges leveled against it in the past. Other Invisible Children videos that followed Kony2012, for instance, traveled far more deeply into the history and politics on the ground than the original.
RECOMMENDED: 7 excellent books about Kony and the LRA
“They’ve been forced to learn very quickly,” she says. “There’s been a huge growth spurt in learning [at Invisible Children] this past year.”
But for some of the organization's detractors, the flaws of the Kony2012 project are more fundamental. When the original video was released, Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole called it an example of the “white savior industrial complex” – the noxious mix of good intentions and limited understanding of global politics that he argues has fueled a great deal of American intervention in the developing world.
“I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than "making a difference,” he wrote after the release of the original video. “There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.”
Shaky cellphone camera footage shows a man in a red shirt lying immobile behind a South African police van, his arms bound to the fender. A small group of police officers cluster around him as onlookers scream out to the officers to let him go.
Then, suddenly, the van lurches forward. With a swelling crowd chasing it, the van drives off, dragging the man, kicking and writhing, along the pavement behind it. Three hours later, the man, a taxi driver from Mozambique named Mido Macia, died in a nearby police station.
Indeed, while the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius has focused renewed global attention on South Africa’s epidemic of violence, for many in the country’s poor black communities, Mr. Macia’s death highlighted a much more familiar story: a confrontation turned violent between police and a black man and the brazen attitude of police impunity that accompanied it.
RECOMMENDED: Briefing: How violent is South Africa?
“The police don’t even care that people are watching,” said Moses Dlamini of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), a government agency that investigates crimes by the police, in a television interview.
Mr. Dlamini’s organization announced Thursday that it has officially launched an investigation into Macia’s death. In a statement, the group described the taxi driver’s severe head and abdomen injuries.
"Members of the South African police service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties,” said South African president Jacob Zuma in a statement Thursday. “The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing, and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner.”
As many analysts have noted, South Africa faces an almost unparalleled policing challenge. Its officers must keep the peace in a country with one of the highest rates of murder, rape, and robbery in the world. At the same time, South Africans have a deep mistrust of the force, which has done little to shake its violent reputation in the two decades since it was used as the muscle of white minority rule.
Between April 2011 and March 2012, the IPID recorded 720 cases of suspicious deaths at the hands of police officers. And the number of people killed by police in South Africa doubled between 2006 and 2010, according to the Guardian.
"You must kill the bastards if they threaten you or the community," then-deputy security minister Susan Shabangu said in a widely-circulated 2008 speech to police. "I want to assure the police station commissioners and policemen and women that they have permission to kill these criminals. You must not worry about the regulations.”
For South Africans, police violence has become a wearily familiar news story. In August 2012, news footage caught officers spraying bullets into a crowd of striking platinum miners in the town of Marikana, an incident that killed 34 people and injuring 78. And as the Pistorius case unfolded last week, one of the most dramatic revelations came when it was revealed that Hilton Botha, the lead detective handling the case, was himself on trial for seven counts of alleged murder on the job.
As news of Macia’s death circulated in newspapers and social media Thursday morning, many drew parallels to the apartheid era, when deaths of activists and others in police custody were routine.
“If this was apartheid police we'd riot,” wrote prominent social activist Zackie Achmat in a tweet.
RECOMMENDED: Briefing: How violent is South Africa?
•A version of this post first appeared on the author's blog, A View From the Cave. The views expressed are the author's own.
There is a new peace deal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the outlook is mixed.
11 countries (Congo, Angola, Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia) signed onto the deal at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia.
The Central African coalition agreed to provide support, including 2,500 troops, to stabilize a country that has been beset by conflict for decades.
It’s not stable yet, and many are uncertain if this negotiated deal will accomplish much.
The driving force behind the new deal was the advance of the M23 rebels. The rebels are remnants of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a group that formally integrated into the Congolese government in 2009 and whose military made the transition as well. A few hundred ethnic Tutsi, many former CNDP members, broke off in April 2012 to form the M23 rebellion under the leadership of General Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda.
M23 rebels launched attacks on Congolese forces and displaced people living in the eastern Congo. A large push by the rebels led to the capture of the main city of Goma this past November. A standoff ensued between the rebels and the Congolese government. Fighting took place outside of Goma and it later emerged that both sides committed human rights violations and that Rwandan soldiers were supporting the M23 rebels. An ultimatum from the Congolese government with the backing of regional powers led M23 to vacate Goma at the end of November.
Skirmishes continued since and leading up to the peace deal this week. Its announcement was met by a variety of reactions from people with knowledge of the situation in the Congo.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon used his remarks at the signing to announce the imminent appointment of a special envoy and stressed the importance and his optimism for a solution. “The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo must remain a top priority on the international agenda,” he said. “It is my earnest hope that the Framework will lead to an era of peace and stability for the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region.”
A cautious sentiment was taken by the UN mission head in the eastern Congo's North Kivu province, Alex Queval, who told Al Jazeera, ”I think it would be wrong to have too great expectations because the situation here is very difficult. The conflict has been going on for at least 19 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I definitely think that this approach can be a new beginning.”
Academic and African Monitor blogger Laura Seay took a more pessimistic stance about the outlook of the peace deal. In a Twitter interview with Mark Goldberg of the UN Dispatch, she explained why – Goma still remains vulnerable to capture by M23 and the plan requires support from the regional players.
“There’s little reason to believe that Rwanda will actually stop funding M23 or stay out. History suggests otherwise,” she tweeted.
Rwanda saw its foreign aid suspended as the result of evidence showing its support for the M23 rebellion. Ms. Seay sees its participation as an effort to restore the money. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and philanthropist Howard Buffett came to the defense of Rwanda in a recent Foreign Policy article. They warn of the costs of making aid cuts to both Rwanda and the region more broadly.
Slashing international support to Rwanda ignores the complexity of the problem within Congo's own borders and the history and circumstances that have led to current regional dynamics. Cutting aid does nothing to address the underlying issues driving conflict in the region, it only ensures that the Rwandan people will suffer — and risks further destabilizing an already troubled region.
Seay disagreed with the two in a blog post. She argued that the aid money does not detract from programming, but rather allows Rwanda to divert money that would go into social programs into its military support of M23.
Blair and Buffett also ignore the fact that having so much aid support frees up other resources for the Rwandan government to use in its military adventures in the Congo. Were Rwanda not wasting money on supporting the M23, Kigali would be able to fund many of the excellent development initiatives that were previously funded with aid dollars.
Congolese activist Kambale Musavuli rejected the idea of a peace plan without a justice element. He wrote on Facebook, “The fact that Kabila signed the UN framework agreement shows clearly that he does not serve the interest of the Congolese people, just for those who still had doubt. This is the guy, Kabila, who took 9 months to talk to his people that Rwanda had in fact attacked the Congo.” It continues by posing a series of questions regarding lingering issues that are not addressed by the peace deal.
Meanwhile, M23 is beginning to show some internal cracks. Fighting between rival groups representing a power struggle between political leader Jean-Marie Runiga and military chief Sultani Makenga left 8 people dead, reported the BBC. What remains are questions about what may be lie ahead for the Congo.
Kris Berwouts raised this point at the end of a piece for African Arguments on a Congo peace deal shortly before it was announced, writing, “So there is a lot of talk about dialogue these days here in Kinshasa. Will that bring back a bit of legitimacy or national cohesion after the failed elections and one year of M23? I doubt it. I don’t easily believe in miracles. But after all, this is Congo, where nothing ever seems to work but everything remains possible.”
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.
On Feb. 22, President Obama announced in a letter to Congress that he deployed “approximately 100” US military troops to Niamey, Niger to establish a drone base to survey the Sahel and the Sahara. This base, which could eventually host up to 300 US troops, contradicts earlier administration assurances that there would be no US boots on the ground. There has been limited American surveillance of the region before, using light aircraft. However, a drone base dramatically ups the visibility – and the ante.
It is much more significant than the 100 US forces helping east and central African governments try to overcome the Lords’ Resistance Army. The drone base, and the US military and other personnel needed to support it, will be located in one of the poorest countries in the world. “Mission creep” is probably inevitable, not least because the lack of infrastructure will require the Americans to provide high levels of support for their military personnel.
The drone base is likely to get bigger, even if its mission remains surveillance only.
This decision associates the US directly with regional governments that are weak – and in many cases alienated from the people they ostensibly govern. The region is also the venue for frequent military coups. Further, there are no historical ties between the US and the region – unlike France – and there are no significant American interests in the conventional sense.
Why did the administration take this step? Those of us outside the government can only speculate. The French, who are much closer American allies around the world than American popular opinion acknowledges, probably encouraged it. The government of Niger probably welcomed it. The recent spate of kidnappings in the region probably added urgency.
But the fundamental motivation for the drone base appears to be US fear – there is no other word – of the quasi-criminal networks that have adopted the Al Qaeda brand. These groups struggle amongst themselves for control of smuggling routes, and the popular support they have seems to reflect popular alienation from bad governance. They are primarily the product of local circumstances and, up to now, have posed no threat to the United States.
That may change. The drone base associates the US in a highly visible way with the corrupt governments of the region. It will be easy to represent the them as yet another element of the alleged American war against Islam.
Now that there are boots on the ground, it is difficult to foresee an end to the US presence any time soon.
So it was a nice PR boost for the country Sunday when an uplifting South African story, “Searching for Sugar Man,” took home the Academy Award for best documentary feature.
The film tells the story of Sixto Rodriguez, an American folk singer whose first album fizzled in the United States, only to become a runaway hit in apartheid South Africa – entirely without his knowledge.
Almost thirty years later, a couple of South African fans track down the reclusive musician, who has spent the intervening decades working as a house builder in inner city Detroit. They clue him in to his South African celebrity – one of them claims he was "bigger than Elvis" – and eventually help send him on a sold-out stadium tour in South Africa in 1998.
It’s a story ready-made for Hollywood, and watching the film, it all seems almost too good to be true.
That’s probably because it is.
To be sure, the part about Rodriguez's American obscurity is all fact. When asked how many copies of his album sold in the US, a producer for his record label said only slightly facetiously, “In America? Six.”
But it turns out Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul left out a few details in the rags-to-long-belated-riches story – notably the fact that Rodriguez was a minor hit in Australia and New Zealand in the late 1970s, and both toured and released a live album there. In 1981, he was the opening act for the Aussie rock superstars Midnight Oil – hardly the gig of an industry nobody.
As The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw griped in his review of the film,
“It gives the audience the impression that after Rodriguez was dropped by [his American] label, he simply collapsed into non-showbiz obscurity until his South African fanbase was mobilised. But…a rudimentary internet search shows that Rodriguez's musical career did not vanish the way the film implies, and the film has clearly skated round some facts, and frankly exaggerated the mystery, to make a better and more emotional story.”
And Rodriguez’s Australian fame is not the only issue that Mr. Bendjelloul airbrushes in his film. He also makes a confusing attempt to conflate Rodriguez’s popularity in South Africa, chiefly among young and liberal whites, with a kind of growing social consciousness in the country.
“Really the first opposition to apartheid, they’ll tell you they were influenced by Rodriguez,” said Stephen Segerman, a record store owner and one of the South Africans responsible for tracking down the musician, in the film.
That may be something of a stretch, given that by the time Rodriguez’s LP landed in Johannesburg and Cape Town in the early ‘70s, a movement had been fighting the country’s white minority rule and rigid segregation laws for decades. And it was hardly being led by white college students.
These omissions and molding of the facts in “Searching for Sugar Man” were all the more disappointing to many critics because the core of the singer’s story was – and remains – remarkable. The fact that Rodriguez's music could circulate so widely (selling 500,000 copies by one estimate) in South Africa without anyone there knowing who he was speaks to the country's terrific isolation in the '70s and '80s. And there is serendipity to the idea that a talented musician who missed out on fame in his own country could find it, half a life later, on the other side of the world.
"The story was so compelling," wrote one reviewer, "that they didn't want to spoil it."
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, China Africa News. The views expressed are the author's own.
An increasingly common complaint emanating from the African media is that Chinese immigrants in Africa are having a negative impact in their host economies.
Recent studies suggest that the population of Chinese in Africa now stands at close to 1 million. The chief concern is that Chinese small businesses, often run by Chinese families, are capitalizing on their better access to Chinese markets, more advanced techniques, or superior access to capital, to make profits in key industries in which Africans seek employment – namely petty trading, agriculture, mining, and building work.
Migration has long been a popular route for poorer Chinese workers and traders hoping to make their fortunes. This has resulted in the establishment of Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia, who often set up industries with close connection to the Chinese economy. This model – which has been playing out for hundreds of years – has allowed the Chinese economy to vent excess labour out into the peripheries of its sphere of influence, creating durable linkages with other markets and, more recently, easing the political pressure created by rural poverty and urban unemployment.
This has been a catalyst in the growth of a number of economies in Southeast Asia while also garnering disquiet as local inhabitants complain that Chinese migrants take their opportunities.
Recently there have been moves in Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia to curtail which industries Chinese immigrants are allowed to work in – especially in the realm of market traders. Chinese market traders have a poor reputation in much of Africa because of widespread complaints over counterfeit and poor quality goods.
Their advantage over African traders stems from their superior access to Chinese markets and capital, sometimes earned through working on large Chinese building projects on the continent. In other industries such as building, agriculture, and mining, Chinese laborers and small businesses often bring with them skills and experience lacking in many African markets.
The question of whether these small scale Chinese businesses and labourers benefit African economies comes down to how far they integrate. Some Chinese entrepreneurs set up in Africa to make their fortune, but use the wealth they accrue to support their families in China or to build up sufficient capital to move home and set up a business there. This is akin to outsourcing industries like petty trading and agriculture to China, because in this case most of the wealth created leaves the country.
However, in other cases Chinese entrepreneurs build up successful pockets of industry, employing local people and transferring skills to the local economy. This is especially useful when considering industries which are not well developed in Africa such as manufacturing. If Chinese entrepreneurs using skills learned in China can successfully set up manufacturing for export in Africa, it could provide a huge boost to the African economy.
The problem for African governments in knowing which immigrants are going to be productive members of the economy, and which will take opportunities away from locals or transfer their wealth back to China. Considering the generally weak bureaucracies in many African countries this is a real challenge. In order to make progress here African governments will need to enlist the support of their Chinese counterparts to help limit the flow of unskilled immigrants, and to send home those who are not creating employment or investing in the local economy.
Henry Hall is the founder and editor of China Africa News, a website and blog covering China’s growing relationship with countries in Africa.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Congo Siasa. The views expressed are the author's own.
If all goes well, eleven heads of state (or their delegates) will soon gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to sign the snazzily-titled: "Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region."
What can we expect for this framework? An early copy I have seen suggests that it provides more questions than answers, although it does raise hope and expectations. (The copy is here.)
The 2-1/2 page deal rests on two pillars – reforming the Congolese state and ending regional meddling in the Congo. It then creates two oversight mechanism to make sure the eleven signing countries take these imperatives seriously, with four organizations (The United Nations, The African Union, The International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICLGR), and the Southern African Development Community) as guarantors.
As such, it marks an improvement in engagement in the current conflict in the eastern Congo: there is a recognition that violence in the North and South Kivu regions of eastern Congo is deeply linked to national and regional developments. The agreement also allows for neutral arbiters to hold the signatories accountable. Perhaps most importantly, we now have the formal involvement of the UN and several other eminent organizations in an official deal, which should mean there will be follow-up at the highest level.
So is this a peace process? I have often complained that, while violence has escalated over the past years in the Kivus, the last genuine peace process – with a comprehensive peace deal, a strong mediation, and good donor coordination in support – ended in 2006. Will this agreement mean a new peace process?
Not really. Or more precisely: we don't know yet. The agreement is more a statement of principles than a concrete action plan. And some of the principles seem to make that action plan difficult. For example, the oversight mechanism for Congolese state reform in early drafts of the agreement included civil society and donors, but is now only made up of the Congolese government. Donors merely provide support to the government, and civil society is not mentioned at all. Will a Congolese government that has hitherto been reluctant to reform its institutions be able to oversee itself?
On the regional mechanism, as well, details are lacking. The agreement merely says: "A regional oversight mechanism involving these leaders of the region ... shall be established to meet regularly and review progress in the implementation of the regional commitments outlined above, with due regard for the national sovereignty of the States concerned." No mention of how we are supposed to know whether Rwanda or Uganda are providing aid to the M23 – the Congelese rebel group at the center of the latest wave of militancy – or if the Congo has renewed ties with the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group in the eastern Congo, for example.
One of the gaping silences of the agreement is on armed groups, the reason this august assembly was called in the first place. What of the ICGLR talks in Kampala with the M23? What about other armed groups? There is no mention of whether the Congolese government will engage in talks, or whether the UN or anyone else should mediate – leaving in suspense the ailing Kampala negotiations. The document does mention deferentially the ICGLR on several occasions, probably as an indication that this new process will not automatically supplant existing ones.
Finally, the facilitation, which was initially supposed to be given to the UN, through the offices of a new special envoy, has now been converted into four guarantors: the previously mentioned AU, ICLGR, SADC, and the UN. It is unclear from this deal who among these four will take the lead.
If the proof of this process is in the pudding, will too many cooks spoil the recipe?
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.
South Africans often assume that since the end of apartheid and the coming of democracy in 1994, there has been a huge wave of migration into their country from the rest of the continent. Stories abound of entire Johannesburg neighborhoods that are now Nigerian or Congolese – and of immigrants taking over certain crime syndicates. Over the past five years, there have been multiple waves of xenophobic riots against Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa who, with the benefit of high education standards in their home country, are seen by township dwellers as competition for scarce jobs.
But how many immigrants does South Africa really have? That depends on who you ask.
The country's Human Sciences Research Council once estimated that there are 4 to 8 million undocumented migrants in South Africa, but later withdrew the figure. Those numbers nonetheless still make their way into the press – and the public consciousness – despite the fact that Statistics South Africa, a government agency, estimates undocumented persons in the country to be somewhere in the range of 500,000 to 1 million.
Using other demographic data, however, a team of academics at the Forced Migration Studies Program (FMSP) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg has produced their own set of statistics. They estimate that the overall foreign population in South Africa ranges from 1.6 to 2 million, or 3 to 4 percent of the total population. They also report that there are between 1 and 1.5 million legal and illegal Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa.
Because of its stability, highly developed infrastructure and first-world amenities, many elites from Nigeria, Congo, and other African countries travel to South Africa, and the wealthiest often have houses there. They are a population of high visibility. So too are the receptionists and others, born in Zimbabwe, who deal with the public. But South Africa has a total population of more than 50 million, and the numbers of these highly visible migrants are relatively small. Most immigrants, on the other hand, work in low-wage and informal sectors of the economy, filling the ranks of the country's security guards, street hawkers, and domestic workers.