12 Feb

Kenyan Currency’s Resilience Shows Cracks Amid Political Crisis

Kenya’s shilling weakened the most in more than six months on Monday, as warning signs started to flash for a currency that has, until now, been resilient in the face of a political crisis that shows little sign of abating.

The currency of East Africa’s biggest economy has climbed 2.1 percent this year, reaching its strongest level since June 2016 and posting five straight weeks of gains even as a basket of emerging-market currencies declined amid a global stocks selloff. The shilling fell 0.3 percent by 1:26 p.m. Monday in Nairobi to 101.10 per dollar.

That rise had sent the dollar’s 14-day relative strength index versus the shilling plunging to 6.3 last week, its lowest in more than a decade and well below the level of 30 that some technical traders see as a signal it’s oversold. It rose on Monday to 22.6.

The currency’s price-swings are increasing. Its one-month historical volatility, while low relative to major emerging-market currencies such as South Africa’s rand, has spiked to the highest in more than a year.

Exotix Capital said in a note Thursday that the shilling was, along with the Pakistani rupee and Omani rial, the most vulnerable of the frontier-market currencies it covers. Hasnain Malik, a Dubai-based Exotix analyst, said the shilling was overvalued relative to its real effective exchange rate and cited Kenya’s widening current-account deficit as a concern.

Even stock investors have stayed bullish. Though the FTSE NSE Kenya 25 Index dipped 0.7 percent to 228.31 points on Monday, it’s still near a record high.

Equities have more or less risen steadily since Kenya’s election re-run in October, even though the main opposition alliance has refused to accept defeat. On Jan. 30, it held a mock ceremony to swear in its leader, Raila Odinga, as the “people’s president.” President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration retaliated by arresting opposition officials and closing down some television channels.

To read the full article, click here. 


16 Jan

The Congo’s political crisis is stirring deadly violence in Kasai and beyond

Over the last couple of years, scores of activists have died protesting against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down.

In the latest bout of nationwide demonstrations on 31 December 2017, at least seven more were killed as they took the streets. Many more were arrested.

However, it is not just the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) towns and cities that have witnessed violence as a result of the country’s deepening political crisis.

Kabila’s determination to stay in power despite his term officially ending in December 2016 has also aggravated more localised conflicts, causing widespread death and displacement.

Conflict in Kasai

One such conflict has devastated the Kasai region since mid-2016, leading to the displacement of 1.4 million people internally and 35,000 across the border with Angola.

The conflict first started as a dispute between a local customary leader and central authorities in Kinshasa.

But events escalated when the local chief was killed by the Congolese military. His followers formed a militia known as the Kamuina Nsapu and fighting quickly spread throughout a region roughly the size of the UK.

Refugees in Angola told International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI), which released a report on the violence today, that members of the militia entered their villages and beheaded state officials. They committed horrific violence, but most witnesses said the fighters did not target ordinary citizens.

In response, the Congolese army employed heavy force against the poorly-armed militia, which was mostly made up of children. After neutralising the group, they reportedly turned on the civilian population.

“They shot at everyone. They destroyed our houses and killed a lot of people,” said one refugee. “It was a slaughterhouse.” Along with others, he described how the army killed civilians, committed sexual violence, and looted and burned down many homes.

Inhabitants of another town caught up in the conflict described how a pro-government militia named Bana Mura (after Kabila’s presidential guard) also attacked Kamuina Nsapu and the local population.

To read the full article, click here. 


15 Nov

Zimbabwe’s Military Seizes Power, Threatening Mugabe’s Rule

The armed forces seized power in Zimbabwe after a week of confrontation with President Robert Mugabe’s government and said the action was needed to stave off violent conflict in the southern African nation that he’s ruled since 1980.

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces will guarantee the safety of Mugabe, 93, and his family and is only “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said in a televised address in Harare, the capital. All military leave has been canceled, he said. A senior official involved in the army action said Mugabe is safe but declined to say where he was. People involved in the “purge” of liberation war veterans from the government will be arrested and charged, according to the person, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t public.

Denying that the action was a military coup, Moyo said “as soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect the situation to return to normalcy.” He urged the other security services to cooperate and warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The action came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution.”
As several armored vehicles appeared in the capital on Tuesday, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front described Chiwenga’s statements as “treasonable” and intended to incite insurrection. Later in the day, several explosions were heard in the city.