From Ghana's election sleuths, John Kerry's conundrum, Algeria's surprisingly agile bed-ridden president, to Ethiopian students protesting against the import of a "globally fluent" city, yours truly brings you a mix of insider political gossip and backstory tidbits.
Ghana's election sleuths
It was a complIment, if not a consolation prize, that two chieftains from Ghana's opposition party – former president John Kufuor and presidential contender Nana Akufo-Addo – were recruited by the african Union and the commonwealth, respectively, to monitor south africa's elections on 7 may. Akufo-Addo and his new patriotic party made history in Ghana in 2012 by launching one of the most comprehensive legal challenges to an election result. The ensuing court case took a special panel of judges nine months to produce a ruling, finally in favour of incumbent John Mahama. Akufo-Addo's constitutionalism – he accepted the judges' verdict without demur – seems to have given him credibility with south africa's frustrated opposition parties.
Fluent Addis Ababa
A spate of deadly clashes between students and security forces in Ethiopia's Oromia Province in May seem linked to fears of an ever-expanding national capital, Addis Ababa. Urban planners are reshaping addis with rail lines, highways and shopping malls. Oromia's protesting students want to guard against another import: the "globally fluent" city, an accolade bestowed on the burgeoning conurbations of Beijing, Shanghai, Chicago and New York. The protests started after the release of the new Addis master plan, envisaging a fast-growing and "globally fluent" metropolis. The students were convinced this expansion would consume some of Oromia's farmland.
Artfully, United states secretary of state John Kerry hid his frustration with the division of labour between him and China's prime minister Li Keqiang on their African tours in May. As premier Li flitted across the continent promising billion-dollar loans and offers to build railways, Kerry was finger-wagger-in-chief. In Ethiopia, Kerry shored up relations with the government amidst another crackdown on oppositionists. In South Sudan, he pressured president Salva Kiir to agree
a peace deal with rebel leader Riek Machar. And in Kinshasa, he urged president Joseph Kabila to drop plans to change the constitution and run for a third term.
No time to lose
While Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika may have been re-elected in a wheelchair, he appeared to find the overdrive button. Perhaps he feels he has no more time to lose. On 5 may he pulled together a government that is striking both for having a record number of women – seven ministers – and for its technocratic nature. His political roadmap has two main themes: a deep constitutional revision that will fall to his new chief of staff, Ahmed Ouyahia; and a reconfiguration
of the country's regional administrations to be managed by prime minister Abdelmalek Sellal. ●