Each week award-winning journalist KRISTEN VAN SCHIE brings you all the news that’s worth knowing from across the SADC region. Here is this week’s SADC wrap.
We’re doing things a little differently this week and bringing you a summary of what went down at Barack Obama’s first US-Africa Leaders Summit, which was held in Washington last week, explaining who said what about things we already know and what was happening back home.
Angola‘s president José Eduardo dos Santos didn’t make the trip out to Washington to meet with Obeezy (check this 2012 BBC piece that describes him as “Angola’s shy president”. “He rarely attends regional summits of groups like the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) or the African Union (AU), sending ministers in his place,” it reads), but his deputy Manuel Vicente met with US secretary of state John Kerry, where he encouraged the US to get involved in more than just Angola’s oil. As the fourth-largest economy in Africa, Angola wants a seat on the Security Council come 2015-2016.
Meanwhile, a report by a UK-based NGO has pointed to skullduggery among oil companies in Angola (1. I know, right? Oil companies acting unethically. Gasp! And 2. You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to use skullduggery in a story.) As the Huffington Post reports, BP and Cobalt International Energy pledged $350-million for a research institute as a condition to being granted off-shore drilling rights. “But Global Witness said it has been unable to find any evidence that the project actually exists. The group said neither BP nor Cobalt has been able to demonstrate that the project is in development.” Tsk tsk tsk.
Botswana‘s president Ian Khama was also absent from the summit, sending foreign affairs and international cooperation minister Phandu Skelemani instead. Khama’s absence is discussed at length in this Mmegi piece: “According to an international relations commentator in a local institution, Khama’s no-show at the summit shows that he is undermining the diplomatic relations between the two countries … ‘How do you send a minister to a heads of state summit when there are no commitments barring you from attending such gathering?’ asked the expert who preferred to remain anonymous.”
Meanwhile, Dr Reggie Perumal – a South African pathologist who was involved with the Oscar Pistorius case – was reportedly commissioned by the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) to perform the autopsy on opposition politician Gomolemo Motswaledi. You’ll recall from last week’s SADC Wrap that Motswaledi died two weeks ago in a car accident that was quickly labeled as “suspicious”.
Addressing Parliament last week, Khama said that while he sympathised with Motswaledi’s mourners,”What is not acceptable is when there are those who strive to cause scandal and take advantage over anyone’s death. Misinformation, untruths and scare mongering add to the families’ grief. Such people who do so abandon their morals and culture. This is shameful and outrageous and must be condemned by the rest of society.”
The country’s elections have been set for October 24.
Democratic Republic of Congo‘s president Joseph Kabila got a knuckle-wrapping while in the US after protesters there said they were beaten up by his guards. Beyond that, the will-he-won’t-he guessing game continued as to whether or not Kabila would run for another term as president in 2016. It would be against his country’s own constitution, but apparently he’s made no moves to assure anybody he won’t do it.
Read this great Africa Report piece to get an idea of how the uncertainty over Kabila’s next step is affecting the DRC.
Meanwhile, the US has called on the remaining Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the DRC to lay down their weapons – or face military action. They should probably take that seriously, given the whipping the UN force intervention brigade handed out to M23 last year.
President Armando Guebeza spent his time in Washington trying to encourage US investors to put their money into Mozambique. He reportedly said that “although a large number of US companies are already investing in Mozambique, there are not yet enough of them to cover the huge potential the country offers,” which was everything from agriculture to fishing, tourism to mining.(Now is a good time to re-read this Daily Maverick piece on the humiliating withdrawal of one big mining company from the country. It ain’t as easy to make a buck there as it seems.)
Meanwhile, there will be only three presidential candidates in Mozambique’s October 15 elections, as they were the only ones who met all the legal requirements, said the country’s constitutional council. Now it’s between Frelimo candidate Filipe Nyusi, the Mozambique Democratic Movement’s Daviz Simango, and hiding-out-in-the-bush Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
Oh, Swaziland. I can always rely on you for bad human rights news, and that’s not a good thing. While King Mswati III was in Washington, so were some Swazi human rights activists, which, well let’s just say the government didn’t take kindly to their gatecrashing. Swazi prime minister Sibusiso Dlamini allegedly got up in Parliament and called for the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland secretary general Vincent Ncongwane and Lawyers for Human Rights’ Sipho Gumede to be strangled when they get home. “They leave your constituencies and do not even inform you where they are going and once they come back and you find out that they are from your constituency, you must strangle them,” he said.
Ja. Given that Swaziland lost its AGOA status with the US for human rights violations, including workers’ rights, I’m not sure this is the best tactic to convince investors that all is good and well in the Kingdom. Gumede reportedly retracted the statement, but not before the US State Department took notice.
Returning from Washington, Malawi‘s president Peter Mutharika said it was too early to say what the impact of the summit would be except that “no matter what happens, it will be a positive impact”. That’s a lot of optimism given that Mutharika then went on to say that no communiqués or commitments were signed there. Maybe he’s just trying to deflect criticism over his 52-person-strong delegation.
You can read the statements of other SADC countries that attended the summit here:
And in case you were wondering where Zimbabwe is on that list, they weren’t invited.
Kristen van Schie is a South African journalist working at the Weekend Argus in Cape Town. Raised in Namibia, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa, she has reported from the Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Namibia, Vietnam, Antarctica, and a ship in the Indian Ocean. She is a three-time winner at the Sikuvile Journalism Awards, South Africa’s premier newspaper awards. She blogs about news from the region at The SADC Wrap.