Kenyans will follow with utmost interest the trial of President Uhuru Kenyatta and of Vice-President William Ruto which is due to start in February in the compulsory presence of both statesmen, according to an end of November court ruling. It still remains to be seen whether they will attend. But if they don’t, they would defy a UN Security Council decision not to put off the cases against them.
All minds will also focus on the evolution of the situation in neighbouring Somalia, where events will prove whether the statement made at the end of November 2013 by the Foreign Minister and Vice-Prime Minister, Fawzia Adam, that Al Shabab has almost been defeated, will be proved right or wrong. An opportunity to increase the national cohesion of the torn-apart country will occur in January at Ankara where a fourth round of talks is due to take place between President Ahmed Mohamed Mahmoud Silanyo of Somaliland and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, respectively. Talks should cover a range of issues, including the management of air space, cooperation on the fight against terrorism, piracy, serious crime, illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste at sea, as well as economic development. Meanwhile, the reunification process between Somalia and Puntland may still take some time. Indeed, Puntland is holding presidential elections on January 8. Then, in December 2014, the European countries which launched the anti-piracy Atalanta Operation, should extend it for another two years,
In Sudan, President Omar al-Bashir has vowed to end all armed conflicts across the country in 2014 and to hold free and fair elections in 2015. Their inclusiveness will largely depend on the authorities’ response to the opposition’s demand to set up a transitional government that could arrange the elections and draft a new constitution. A lot remains to be done in Darfur where 100 people died in violent clashes between the Misseriya and Salamat tribes in mid-November.
In South Sudan, the political struggle within the ruling SPLM will be the main feature alohg the year. This is important because whoever heads the party would be the presumptive SPLM presidential candidate in the 2015 elections.
The trial in Senegal of former President Hissene Habre by the Extraordinary African Chambers is expected to start in 2014 and last around 7 months. In early December 2013, several judges travelled to N’Djamena in order to finalize the investigations on the alleged crimes perpetrated by Hissene Habres and his dreaded Direction de la documentation et de la sécurité (DDS) secret services.
The stabilization of the Central African Republic is one of the greatest challenges on the continent for 2014. The UN security council adopted on December 5 last a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter giving a mandate to the International support mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) to deploy itself for the next twelve months. The security council has also given a mandate to France to assist MISCA in all possible ways. As a result, 1,600 French troops began, on 9 December last, the disarmament of the militias in Bangui, where some 400 people were killed during clashes between the Northern Seleka militia and their Anti-Balaka rivals. The trouble however is that many Seleka militias have abandoned their uniforms, which makes them difficult to identify and, on the other hand, that MISCA troops from Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Chad and Cameroon amount to only 2,500 troops whereas 3,600 were needed.
In Congo-Kinshasa, Joseph Kabila is likely to launch new attempts to gather political support after the failure in the second half of 2013 to gather a national consensus around constitutional changes which may allow him to run for a third presidential mandate. The main opposition parties which accuse him and his party of having rigged the 2011 presidential and parliamentary elections, namely Etienne Tshisekedi’s Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social and Vital Kamerhe’s Union pour la nation congolaise, boycotted the national talks organised in September and October 2013, whose official aim was to strengthen national cohesion which was eroded by the M23 rebel attacks in Kivu. In 2014, the main question on the security front will be whether the Kinshasa government and the Congolese army will be able to capitalize politically and on the military front on the defeat which was inflicted in November 2013 on the Rwandan and Ugandan-backed M23 rebels by the Congolese army with the support of UN troops.
Indeed, much remains to be done with over 40 rebel groups left to dismantle and neutralize including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (DFLR) which were ordered by the UN to lay their weapons down on 6 December last. The challenge will also consist for the Congolese government in accelerating the Security Sector Reform and improving the discipline and the living conditions of the military.
In neighbouring Rwanda, the year will be dominated by the commemoration in April of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide and also by ongoing speculations about the succession of President Paul Kagame whose presidential mandate comes to an end in 2017 and needs constitutional changes for him to be allowed to run for a third term. In February 2014, the UN will decide whether they close their Bujumbura office or not. The Burundian authorities asked them to do so, arguing that now the country is peaceful and stable. But diplomats think that it is necessary to keep an office in the capital in order to monitor the dialogue between President Pierre Nkurunziza and the opposition, ahead of a crucial year in 2015, during which presidential and legislative elections will take place. The amendments to the constitution which the President is planning are causing increased anger among the opposition. One is about the right to carry out a third mandate and the other is the abrogation of the current two third majority requirement to pass legislation which forces the ruling party to negotiate with the other ones. In Southern Africa, after the celebrations of their venerated leader Nelson Mandela, the focus will return to the general elections in South Africa in April. These will most certainly end up with a new term for President Jacob Zuma, despite growing disenchantment among ANC grassroots caused by the corruption of the new elite and the brutal repression of miners demonstrating for better living conditions. Elections are also due in Malawi on the May 20, 2014 and at the end of the year, on October 25 in Mozambique, where the situation is becoming an increasing source of concern. Indeed, Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) resumed rebel activity in the second half of 2013 and as a result, Rio Tinto and other mining companies are considering pulling out of the country. This unrest could inflict the first serious blow to several decades of fast economic expansion.