Three-A-Week. Political Risk

  1. Special Summit. Heads of state from the African Union (AU) will meet in Ethiopia this weekend to discuss reforms championed by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. In a nutshell, Kagame hopes to sharpen the priorities, programmes and financing of the AU. This would consist of slimming the number of AU commissions from eight to six and reducing the number of senior officials in the organisation – all of which would reduce costs – before removing dependence on financing from foreign donors. Kagame will be succeeded by Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt as AU Chair in January 2019, and is therefore seeking to buttress is legacy. Nevertheless, the long-term significance of reform seems clear. Steps toward the formation of an African continental free trade area, economic partnership agreements with the European Union, demographic changes at home, secular changes in production processes, febrile international markets, the re-invigoration of nationalism and multipolarity abroad. The list of threats and opportunities alongside which the AU could play a meaningful role goes on.

  2. Great power rivalry. Russian and French authorities continue to differ on their respective mediation of Central African Republic (CAR) political crisis. Most recently, the Russian representatives at the UN Security Council called on France to recognise Russian initiatives. In fact, Russia is an important source of arms and military expertise in the region; and plans deeper engagement going by recent statements (military, diplomatic and economic). Meanwhile, the United States is cutting down the troops deployed in West Africa. Jim Mattis, US Defence Secretary attributed this to a shift in strategic focus from terrorism to great power competition.

  3. Succession planning. Odds on Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila’s anointed successor, Emmanuel Shadary, oscillated this week. First down, when opposition parties agreed a single candidate, Martin Fayulu to face him on 23 December. Then up again, when opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi withdrew his support follow protests on the ground. In Gabon, President Ali Bongo is still off the scene for medical reasons. To regularise the situation, the Constitutional Court has allocated powers to the Vice-President or Prime Minister. However, it’s right to do so is in dispute. The benefits for political stability are at the very least limited, if not damaging