Category: Blog

Kenya: Politics and security

The Republic of Kenya faces an uncertain risk outlook ahead of the 2017 general elections on August 8. President Uhuru Kenyatta faces a probable 2nd term win; his powerful Kikuyu base has been expanded to include the vote of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) Kalenjin constituency following the September merger of The National Alliance (TNA) party and Ruto’s URP into the Jubilee Party Kenya (JPK). Ruto will in turn receive Kenyatta’s support in the 2022 polls.

Five major opposition parties in turn formed a coalition on 11 January called the National Super Alliance (NASA). Raila Odinga is likely to be nominated as party chief, however other party leaders are also vying for the position.

Political violence remains a significant risk the country, particularly during election periods. Over 1,200 people were killed, and over 600,000 displaced as a result of politically motivated violence during and after the 2007 general elections. Elections in 2013 were relatively peaceful. Violence related to the outcome of the 2017 presidential election is not expected to be severe or widespread, however, this may change should presidential candidates engage in ethnic populism and divisive campaign rhetoric ahead of the polls.

Demonstrations against the JPK, along with opposition to the controversial Electoral Laws (Amendment) Act, which was recently passed, are expected to increase ahead of and following the elections, particularly in the event of a narrow, and likely JPK victory. Raila Odinga has campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, aimed at the JPK, and is expected to cry foul in the event of his defeat (should he be nominated to lead Nasa), as he did against President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, in 2007.

Current Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel security map of Kenya.

County level polls are at a greater risk of politically motivated violence in 2017. The devolution of power to local counties since 2013 was meant to reduce competition at national level; however, due to the intense competition for access to lucrative political offices, these counties risk becoming flashpoints for violence.  These seats command greatly expanded county budgets, along with influence over lucrative infrastructural projects, and the like. Tensions at a national level are also being replicated at a county level.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has identified nineteen counties as election violence hot spots in 2017. These include the counties of Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Homabay, Isiolo, Turkana, Bungoma, Kiambu, Kilifi, Lamu, Migori, Baringo and Pokot. The bulk of these belong to the Rift Valley Province, a key constituency from where Ruto is expected to deliver a sizeable vote.

In rural areas, competition over resources, land demarcation disputes, cattle rustling, and banditry, together with local political rivalries, mean that localised outbreaks of ethnic and communal violence will remain present through 2017. Clashes commonly occur in the Rift Valley and Coast provinces and are usually contained by police or army units within a few days.

Al-Shabaab is likely to maintain pressure on Kenya through 2017. The majority of Al-Shabaab attacks take place in the northeastern border counties of Mandera, Wajir, and sometimes Garissa. The militant group also poses a risk to both inland and coastal urban hubs Attacks are usually carried out by small groups of fighters armed with assault rifles and the occasional bomb or rocket. Communication towers are also targeted, mainly to disrupt communications, but possibly linked to unreported extortion attempts, as is the case in Somalia.  The risk increased following the deployment of Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) to Somalia in late 2011 as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).


South Africa

Infighting within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party is expected to intensify through 2017, ahead of the 54th National Conference in December 2017; an electoral summit where a new party leader will be chosen to replace the embattled Jacob Zuma, whose second term in office comes to an end in 2019. Divisions within the ANC have led to two roughly defined factions; a pro-Zuma camp and a pro-ANC camp. The pro-ANC camp includes those who see Zuma as a grave liability to the party and are seeking his exit. The ‘Zuma liability’ became apparent through the August 2016 municipal elections in which total ANC support dropped to 53.9%, from 62.93% in 2011. The main opposition party, the liberal Democratic Alliance (DA) which has governed the Western Cape province since 2009, saw an increase from 24.1% in 2011 to 26.90%, gaining control over the central metropolitan municipalities of Tshwana (Pretoria), Johannesburg, and the symbolically important Nelson Mandela Bay in the process. The radical left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, formed in 2013 by expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, gained 6% of the vote in the 2014 national election and 8.2% in the 2016 municipal polls. The municipal elections are a good indicator of voter support ahead of General elections scheduled for 2019, which suggest that the ANC will retain a small majority, however, factionalism may erode support further, especially if opposition parties are able to win over rural voters, which traditionally make up the bulk of ANC votes.

The pro-Zuma camp will support the president’s endorsement of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (his ex-wife and a former chair of the Africa Union Commission) as his successor as party leader. This loyal faction are eager to protect the lucrative patronage networks established under his tenure and which are expected to continue under hers. Dlamini Zuma also appears to have the support of rural ANC officials, including the powerful “premier league”, consisting of Ace Magashule (Free State), DD Mabuza (Mpumalanga), Supra Mahumapelo (North West) and Sihle Zikalala (KwaZulu-Natal) as well as the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL). Dlamini Zuma also appears to be pushing a more-women-in-politics narrative, which may be geared towards encouraging higher levels of female participation in the 2019 general elections.

Despite this hardcore of supporters, Zuma’s influence over the party succession is weakening due to factionalism. In line with ANC tradition, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to succeed Zuma as party leader at the national conference. The pro-ANC camp, who support Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, include Gauteng provincial ANC officials, COSATU (the Congress of South African Trade Unions), and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The ANC, overall, is likely to agree on Ramaphosa as he is more palatable than the alternative, is considered pro-business (which may assuage investor uncertainty), and with the support of trade unions, may appeal to the urban electorate within Gauteng, and reverse some the ANC’s losses.

It is also unclear whether Zuma will complete his term in office. The possible reinstatement of corruption charges and an investigation into Zuma’s dealings with a prominent business family, as outlined in the Public Prosecutors “state capture” report in November, threaten to further undermine the president’s position within the party; the negative press strengthening the ‘Zuma liability’ factor. Whoever succeeds Zuma as party leader will have much influence over the conduct and outcome of these investigations. There is a possibility that Zuma will be offered an ‘early retirement’ in exchange for charges dropped against him, and immunity once he leaves office.

Populist rhetoric is likely to increase through 2017 and 2018. This has a number of broadly defined objectives designed to reverse ANC electoral losses, including bolstering the party’s socialist credentials and placating left-wing faction and alliance members. This is also an attempt to reduce the appeal of the radical EFF and to recapture votes from its strongholds in the North West and Limpopo provinces. It will also be an attempt to deflect blame away from systemic ANC governance failures, scapegoating minorities through “white monopoly capital” and related narratives. Populist rhetoric will appeal to unemployed voters, who make up approximately 26% of the electorate. These moves further increase expropriation risks, as demonstrated by the new Expropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly in early 2016 which does away with the “willing-buyer-willing-seller” model in favour of expropriation with compensation, determined by a government adjudicator. All in all, political uncertainty will continue to weigh on investor confidence in the year ahead, as the economy struggles with volatile currency fluctuations, stagnant GDP growth and the threat of a ratings downgrade.

A US drone base in Niger

On 30 September the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed the construction of a drone base in Agadez, in northern Niger. The base will house unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including the MQ-9 Reaper, for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions over the Sahel, Sahara and Lake Chad area.

The US has operated from Base Aerienne 101 at Diori Hamani International Airport outside Niamey since 2013, which it shares with French forces supporting Operation Barkhane, France’s 3,000 man strong regional counter-terrorism operation. France, which also has a base at Madama, operates a number of UAVs from Niamey. General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers will be based at the new Agadez base, which will be large enough for a Boeing C-17 Globemaster to operate from, and will reportedly be operational in 2017. The drones will initially be used for aerial reconnaissance missions over the Sahel-Sahara and Lake Chad regions, including over Libya, Nigeria, and Mali, tracking the “broad patterns of human activity and are not aimed at hunting individuals” said a senior U.S. official in 2013. The drones may be armed in the future. Germany also announced the building of a military base outside Niamey, on 5 October, to support the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali.

Niger faces a number of security threats which it cannot afford to address without international support; Boko Haram factions continue to mount attacks on Nigerien forces along the poorly protected border with Nigeria. The country faces ongoing threats from militant groups, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Al Mourabitoun. Over 20 Nigerien soldiers were killed in a militant attack upon a Malian refugee camp at Tazalit on 6 October; the militants reportedly arrived from and fled back to the Malian border in a dozen ATV’s. The latent threat of separatist insurgencies by marginalised ethnic groups, such as the Tuareg, also threaten the security environment; on 7 September, the Mouvement pour la justice et la réhabilitation du Niger (MJRN), an ethnic-Toubou armed group threatened to launch attacks on mining and oil sites in Niger in response to economic and environmental grievances.

Regional militant groups may escalate retaliatory attacks due to Niger’s increasing involvement in counter-terrorism operations with international partners. Attacks on military personnel linked to the base would likely be in the form of IED roadside bombs aimed at vehicles operating in the region, VBIED attacks at the base entrance and associated checkpoints and opportunistic small arms fire. A more pressing concern is the fate of western nationals operating in Niger, who may be targeted, as the high-profile attacks in the regional capitals of Bamako, Ouagadougou, and Abidjan since 2015 demonstrate. Foreign nationals will also be at elevated risk of kidnapping; a US aid worker was recently kidnapped in the Tahoua region in mid-October by militants, likely by Jamaat At Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Gharb Afriqqiya (MUJAO) who then fled to Mali, according to statements by the Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum. Foreign nationals in the mining industry are also likely to be affected by attacks and KRE, due to the risks associated with operations in remote locations compounded by generally insufficient levels of government security. This threat was aptly demonstrated with the kidnapping of four French nationals working for the French energy firm Areva in 2008 by Tuareg militia, and released in 2013.