SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide | Africa Confidential

Monday, August 21, 2017

by Business Council for Africa

By Patrick Smith
Editor of Africa Confidential 

We start in Freetown where rescue workers are trying to prevent more loss of life with renewed downpours expected this week and in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari is back on-seat and addressing the country on security matters. In Angola, the MPLA, headed by presidential candidate João Lourenço, is set to cruise to victory on Wednesday (23 August) against a weak opposition; the turnout may give a clearer idea about sentiment on the ground. Still on elections, opposition leader Raila Odinga submitted his election petition to the Supreme Court but insiders expect it will fail. Lastly, after a week of speculation about the possibility of Grace Mugabe being charged with assaulting a model in a Johannesburg hotel, the South African government gave her diplomatic immunity. Business sources claim there was a behind-the-scenes deal over landing rights for the two country's airlines.

SIERRA LEONE: More heavy rain forecast this week after over 500 killed and missing in Freetown landslide
Officials and volunteers are mapping out the most vulnerable areas around Freetown amid fears there could be another devastating landslide this week with deluges forecast for tomorrow (Tuesday 22 August) and Wednesday.

Seneh Dumbuya, the chief coroner in Freetown, told Reuters news agency yesterday (20 August) that rescue workers have brought out 499 bodies since the landslide at Mount Sugar Loaf on 14 August. Locals say another 600 people are still missing; some people trapped by rubble and mud in air pockets have been able to send text messages. The biggest risks now are that a fresh deluge could trigger another landslide, and that cholera could spread because of the shortage of clean water. Environmentalists say unregulated logging in the hills outside the capital and an absence of buildings regulation are to blame for the severity of the disaster.

NIGERIA: Buhari's dawn broadcast promises harder line on Biafran separatists and Islamist insurgents
After a day back in Abuja, a revived-looking President Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent most of this year receiving medical treatment in London, made a fiery televised address to the nation promising more determined action against Boko Haram. He added that attempts by citizens in the south-east of Nigeria to secede – a repeat of the calls that triggered the Biafran civil war in the 1960s – were a red line that no political organisation could be permitted to cross.

Although Buhari repeated the government's position that Nigeria's national unity isn't negotiable, he indicated that he would be open to a dialogue with secessionist groups. 'Every group has a grievance. But the beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence,' he said.

ANGOLA: MPLA's João Lourenço pledges sweeping economic reforms ahead of 23 August presidential election
With his victory assured in this week's presidential elections, the MPLA's candidate João Lourenço offers a programme to restructure the oil-dependent economy and reiterates his commitment to crack down on state and corporate corruption.

Although those pledges ring hollow to the many Angolans who point out that little progress has been made on those issues during the MPLA's four decades in power, opposition parties are unlikely to make much headway in the elections. The biggest opposition party, UNITA, has been missing in action although one of its former militants, Abel Chivukuvuku, the candidate of Casa-CE, has been leading a much livelier campaign and winning over some in the coastal cities as well as the opposition redoubt of Huambo.

KENYA: Little prospect for success of opposition election petition in fast-track High Court case
Seven Supreme Court judges must rule on opposition leader Raila Odinga's petition to overturn the victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 8 August elections. Insiders say the opposition's petition has far less detailed information than the complaint about the disputed 2013 elections which the Court rejected.

Kenya's courts do not countenance the sort of lengthy legal argumentation and demand for data sets from the electoral commission that was a feature of the opposition petition in Ghana in 2012. The Ghana courts took eight months to consider – and ultimately reject – the petition. But the process did give the opposition a forensic knowledge and understanding of the electoral reporting system, which it used to great effect in last year's elections.

Odinga submitted the petition last Friday (18 August), having earlier said he would prefer to mobilise his supporters against what he insists is a stolen election rather than engage with the judiciary. 'Our decision to go to court constitutes a second chance for the Supreme Court.' It can, he added, '…redeem itself, or like in 2013, compound the problems we face as a country.'

ZIMBABWE/SOUTH AFRICA: Did a deal over landing rights help Grace Mugabe get diplomatic immunity after facing prosecution for assault?
After internal argument in the government, South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, confirmed that President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe's wife, Grace, was being granted diplomatic immunity following calls for her to face criminal charges over allegations that she beat up a young model in a Johannesburg hotel last week.

Some insiders are linking the decision to a sudden resolution in a dispute over landing rights between the national airlines of South Africa and Zimbabwe. After both airlines had to ground their flights on the busy Johannesburg to Harare route due to a row over operating permits, South African Airways resumed its flights to Zimbabwe just hours after Grace Mugabe's departure late on Saturday (19 August).

IN VERY BRIEF

ZAMBIA: In a dramatic climbdown, government releases opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and drops all charges

MALI: President Keïta withdraws plans for constitutional reform devolution

TOGO: Opposition demonstrates in Lomé against 50 years of the Eyadéma dynasty

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