Items of Interest: September 17

The ICC appeal of Gbagbo’s acquittal, Kenya’s division of revenue, and Malian diplomacy with Al Qaeda are actions from September 17 that may emerge to become significant factors impacting geomarket developments in Africa.

Côte d’Ivoire: International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda appealed the Court’s acquittal of former President Laurent Gbagbo. 

Significance: Gbagbo, along with his former minister for Youth Charles Blé Goudé, was acquitted by the International Criminal Court on January 15 for charges related to war crimes committed during his 2000-2010 presidency. The appeal, filed late September 16, provides a month’s time to assemble a file challenging the Court’s ruling. The acquittal, which provided Gbagbo release from prison at The Hague (though requiring the former president to reside locally in case of appeal), lessened one significant point of political instability over irreconciled ethnopolitical tensions among supporters of the former president and his Ivoirian Popular Front party. The appeal won’t raise oppositional confidence in the Ivoirian government led by President Alassane Ouattara (who succeeded Gbagbo following the latter’s capture in 2011 by Ivoirian and French military forces), but at the same time, Côte d’Ivoire’s principal opposition parties have already effectively formed an alliance to unseat Ouattara and his Rally of Houphouëtists for Democracy and Peace (RHDP) when the country holds a presidential election in October, 2020. The manipulation of ethnonationalist grievances is a proven tactic in Côte d’Ivoire electioneering, though one that is a recipe for national violence. 

Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Division of Revenue Bill, 2019. 

Significance:The law provides for the distribution of an equitable share of national revenue between the country’s central and county governments. County governments had in recent days ceased operations due to running out of money, which led to extensive debate in the nation’s parliament over appropriate funding mechanisms and support. Regardless of the uncertain economic viability of Kenyan county governments apart from national treasury transfers, the financial empowerment of Kenyan county governments is a significant political imperative intended to drastically reduce the often violent compulsion by political candidates to seek solely national office for self- and tribal-enrichment purposes. Electioneering is already in full swing, even though national elections in Kenya are not until 2022. A collapse of the county government institution would have escalated pressure by ethnopolitical constituents to employ violence to secure the patronage and resources contained within national-level government. 

Mali: Reporting in Mali suggests that the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is seeking talks with Tuareg militant leader and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb proxy Iyad Ag Ghali. 

Significance: Solving for what has become an expanding tempo and area of operations by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been extremely challenging for all stakeholders, including local, national, neighboring, and Western governments. Host-nation defense and security forces, especially in Mali and in Burkina Faso (and in the separate theater of northeastern Nigeria) are increasingly vulnerable to emboldened Islamist militants. Political solutions, such as granting relative autonomy to Mali’s Kidal region (a rearguard base area for Islamist militants), has been strongly criticized (especially by Niger President Issoufou Mahamadou) for failing to mitigate the threat. Pledging $1 billion over five years for counterterrorism programs, as the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) did on September 14, is a notable but non-immediate initiative. Seeking talks with Ghaly, a long-time Tuareg militant leader whom AQIM has cultivated for local leadership and operational purposes in Mali is not inconsistent with counterterrorism initiatives in Mali, the Sahel region, or beyond. To be clear negotiations will never take the form of a formal agreement, but rather an understanding by both parties to refrain from certain targeting or territoriality. 

Other items of note:

-During his state visit to Belgium Democratic Republic of the Congo President Félix Tshisekedi signed memoranda to reestablish reciprocal consulates, for cooperation between the two countries’ central banks, and called for the easing of sanctions on Congo officials who served in the Joseph Kabila administration.  

-Ethiopia’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum is finalizing a draft petroleum law to improve the country’s investment attractiveness and modernize existing legislation that was issued in 1985. 

-Construction was inaugurated in Agadem on the Niger-to-Benin 2,000 kilometer crude oil export pipeline.  

-Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila stated the Petroleum Industry Bill will be reintroduced and passed during the parliament’s 9th assembly.

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