Newswire : African elections to watch –Kenya, Rwanda and Angola


African Presidents.jpg


Kenyan Pres. U. Kenyatta, Angola Pres. Dos Santos, and Rwanda Pres. P. Kagame

July 24, 2017 (GIN) – Major elections are taking place in three African nations next month: in oil giant Angola, East African powerhouse Kenya and tiny, rapidly developing Rwanda.
Rwandans go to the polls August 3-4. The undisputed favorite is the longtime president who has ruled since the end of the tiny nation’s horrific 1994 genocide.
Even the head of the European Union electoral commission said to the Voice of America (VOA) last month: “I think you would not lose any money if you bet on Mr. Paul Kagame.”
Still, the democratic exercise is an important one for Rwanda and its wealthy aid partners, says senior Horn of Africa analyst Murithi Mutiga of the International Crisis Group.
Elsewhere in East Africa, on August 8, voters in Kenya will choose between the incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first president, and Raila Odinga, whose father was a major liberation figure and the country’s first vice president.
The exercise is expected to be Africa’s most expensive on a cost-per-voter basis. Both public and private spending are at an all-time high, with both government and candidates spending hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the electoral process or campaigning to get elected.
In a comparison of cost per voter, Kenya’s 19.6 million voters will each cost the government $25.40. Rwanda will spend 5.5 billion Rwandan francs ($6.5 million). With 6.8 million registered voters, that’s less than a dollar per voter.
This will be 72-year-old Odinga’s last attempt at the presidency. If, as expected, Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance Party wins a narrow victory over Odinga’s National Super Alliance coalition, he could cry foul.
Finally, in Angola, the southern African nation will hold its first vote in decades on Aug 23 without President Jose Eduardo dos Santos at the helm. The 74-year-old, who has recently taken several trips to Spain for medical reasons, is stepping down after 38 years in power.
The poll itself is a two-way race, between the longtime ruling party and the established opposition. The winner will lead a nation whose fortunes are heavily dependent on oil, which accounts for about 45 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product and 95 percent of exports. A slump in oil prices has hit the economy hard.
The new president will face a foundering economy and gaping inequalities with state resources largely controlled President dos Santos and his family.

Newswire: With few riches left to plunder, Angola’s old guard moves on

Angola construction site

Chinese construction site in Lubango, Angola

Jun 26, 2017 (GIN) – Africa’s oil giants are tightening their belts as the sale price of “King Oil”, buffeted by cheaper fracked gas, solar and other renewables, hits new lows.
The promises of prosperity have faded in Ghana, Uganda, and Nigeria, among other oil producers.
Perhaps the saddest scenario can be found in Angola – whose capital Luanda was not long ago rated among the most expensive cities in the world, along with Zurich, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore and Tokyo. Yet 94% of the population in rural areas is categorized as poor.
“The oil boom offered a golden opportunity for self-enrichment,” observed Norimitsu Onishi of the New York Times. Under President José Eduardo dos Santos, his inner circle of family and allies amassed extraordinary wealth.
Isabel dos Santos, the president’s eldest daughter, became Africa’s first female billionaire, according to Forbes Magazine, which estimates her wealth at $3.3 billion.
Now, with lowered hopes for an oil recovery, Mr. dos Santos prepares to step down after 38 years in power. Meanwhile, the country’s building boom and the wealth of its ruling class are coming under greater scrutiny and in some cases prosecution for abusive excesses.
Last April, Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA was ordered to pay $2.6 billion in fines in a massive criminal corruption case that included bribing Angolan officials to approve building projects. The case was heard in a Brooklyn federal court.
A study by Angola’s Center for Studies and Scientific Research at the Catholic University, found that $28 billion from government budgets for the period 2002 to 2015 was unaccounted for. Up to 35 percent of the money spent on road construction alone has vanished, according to the center’s investigation.
During the same period, Angolan companies and individuals invested $189 billion overseas in often opaque transactions, the center found.
Former prime minister and ex-secretary general of the ruling party, Lopo do Nascimento, compared government spending to “opening a window and throwing out money.”
Currently, elections are scheduled for August, but the hand-picked candidate for presidency has run into trouble of his own. A Portuguese judge has ruled that Vice President Manuel Vicente must be prosecuted for corruption and money laundering, including bribing a magistrate when he headed the state-run oil company Sonangol.

Two of his legal and financial representatives in Portugal have also been charged