Archive for November 2011
By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG – As the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares to go to the polls on 28 November, Congolese living in South Africa express fear, that post election violence could occur back home, if the current president refuses to admit defeat. “There are indications the current president may not easily relinquish power if he is defeated, which will cause supporters of Congo’s main opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi, to revolt and that may lead to violence,” Eddy Kasembo, leader of the Congolese Associations in South Africa and a Political analyst at University of Johannesburg said.
According to Kasembo, this year’s election was unique in the DRC since it is only the country’s second election since the end of the conflict. “Congolese in South Africa are watching this year’s election closely. It is important (for them) that the election be free and fair so that stability is consolidated.” He added that the DRC police have been heavy handed in dealing with protestors who were demanding transparent electoral reforms ahead of the 28 November elections.
Last week human rights groups warned that the security situation in the DRC was deteriorating ahead of the elections. In a joint statement, the 40 groups said recent clashes between the police and opposition showed the potential for destabilisation. Official campaigning for the elections kicked off on 28 October. The 2006 presidential election was won by President Joseph Kabila, which civil society groups claim were marred by widespread violence. Kabila has ruled DRC since 2001, following the assassination of his father, Laurent Kabila.
Earlier this year, Members of the Congolese political party, Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), submitted a memorandum to the South African parliament, requesting its intervention in the Congolese crisis. The memorandum gave the South African lawmakers a perspective of the situation prevailing in the DRC during the 2011 pre-electoral period.
Authors of the memorandum requested the South African government to intervene in the Congolese crisis by ensuring that the country’s elections were held free and fair. They also wanted the country’s natural resources to be responsibly managed in a manner that would develop and benefit all Congolese, rather than keeping the natural wealth in the hands of only a few individuals.
Meanwhile, this week Tshisekedi met with senior African National Congress officials and businessmen to drum up support ahead of the polls. He also met with investors and South African mining and agricultural companies. Tshisekedi, leader of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) is the main rival to Kabila in an election seen as a crucial step in the mineral-rich nation’s recovery from a civil war that ended in 2003 and left 5 million people dead.
By Hassan Isilow
A leading researcher on the African Programme at Chatham has blamed the Kenyan government for ignoring lessons learnt by Ethiopia when it invaded Somalia in 2006. Roger Middleton, a consultant researcher at Chatham House – a world-leading source of independent analysis says the history of recent foreign military interventions in Somalia has been bad. He cites the example of the United States mission to Somalia which failed in the 1990’s. Similarly, Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in 2006 met with massive resistance.
“Kenya, like its predecessors the US, the UN and Ethiopia, is unlikely to impose a solution on Somalia, but it is just possible that a short campaign hitting Al-Shabbab’s fund raising capacity could create space for Somali groups to mount a challenge.” Middleton added that this would mean allowing Somali communities to decide how they wish to be governed, potentially including the role for Al-Shabaab.
In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with the aim of toppling the Islamic courts union which was then under the leadership of Sheik Ahmed Sherrif, the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Ethiopia’s invasion led to the creation of Al-Shabaab, a youth resistance movement aimed at fighting the foreign invaders. Middleton fears history could repeat itself if the Kenyan government imposes its solution on Somalia.
“The real danger of this military intervention is that civilians seeking humanitarian assistance may be caught up in the cross fire,” he said, speaking by telephone from the United Kingdom. According to Middleton, Kenyan troops might be successful if they stick to a short-term mission, backed by intelligence to rescue captured hostages and guarantee humanitarian access before withdrawing. In such a case, the worst-case scenario may not play out.
Last month the Kenyan government deployed troops into southern Somalia after suspected Al-Shabaab militants entered Kenyan territory and kidnapped three European women. One of the women, an elderly French national, died while in their custody. This incident angered the Kenyan government who vowed to pursue the Shabaab inside their hideouts in southern Somalia. Since then, several countries, including France and Britain, have offered their full support to the Kenyan government in the drive against Al-Shabaab.
Uganda and Burundi, the only two African countries that have contributed troops to the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia (AMISOM), have also given the Kenyan’s their backing. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi separately reaffirmed their backing of the war against the Shabaab last week.
In July 2010, the Al-Shabbab bombed two venues in Kampala, causing the death of over 70 Ugandans and injuring several others. Museveni said the war on Al- Shabbab was not only Kenya’s responsibility, but that of the entire region.
( This article was first published on VOC http://www.vocfm.co.za)
By Hassan Isilow
Will comrade Julius Malema, the newly ousted leader of the ANC Youth Leaugue, now spill the beans on the “badly kept” secrets within the ruling ANC party, now that he is out in the cold? This was the first question that popped up in my mind on Thursday afternoon, after Derek Hanekom, chair of the ANC disciplinary committee, read out the verdict which literally put the final nail in the fiery Malema’s political coffin.
History has shown that most people sacked from organisations always tend to reveal incriminating secrets about their former comrades or bosses. Who is to say it might not happen again? I for one am keeping my fingers crossed. I remember in 2008, when the ANC recalled former president Thabo Mbeki. Many loyal ministers resigned in a show of solidarity, while ex-defence minister, Mosiou Lekota and company, quit to form a new political party, the rather ill-fated COPE. Lekota and Mbazima Shilowa criticised the way the ANC was being run and at the start, the ruling party lost considerable votes to the new offshoot.
So will Malema follow the Lekota route, by spilling a few Zuma secrets that he was privy to as a confidant and more importantly, will he also start his own political party? I believe, given his support base, that if he was to start a party along the lines of economic freedom that he had been preaching in the ANCYL, he could win many votes.
On the other hand, where have all the Malema supporters gone? Have they abandoned him? I expected to see massive loads of his supporters protesting in the Johannesburg CBD on Thursday after Hanekom read out the verdict. But while many expressed disappointment, the reaction was far milder than expected and seem to indicate that some were beginning to realise that the youth leader’s unbecoming behaviour might have gone a step too far.
A new survey on Friday found that 70% of young South Africans surveyed this week feel that the ANC’s decision to suspend Malema for five years was justified. But it might be too early to predict. Malema’s supporters might yet surprise us when they unleash a tsunami throughout the country as they had previously threatened.
On a positive note, I am impressed by President Jacob Zuma’s recent decisions. Known as a president who have yet to find an idea he did not like, he has finally woken up from slumberland. And about time too! Last month he fired two corrupt ministers, along with the national police commissionerm General Bheki Cele. Such decisive action may yet serve as a warning to others.
The country is tired of hearing about how million of tax payers money is being swindled by corrupt officials in dodgy deals. For that at least, Zuma deserves a pat on the back. On the other hand, some people believe that the suspension of Malema – who was once regarded as being untouchable – will win back favour for the ANC. It serves to reinforce the belief that the organisation does not fear or favour any individual and all are equal before the law. Whether this holds true, only time will tell.
This opinion piece was first published on http://www.vocfm.co.za ( Voice of the cape radio).