Africa in the News: Mugabe Visits China, Nigeria Launches ID Cards and South Sudan Rebels Reject Truce

President Mugabe Leaves China with Less Funding than Desired

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe visited China this week from August 24-28. The media speculated that Mugabe was headed to China in search of a $10 billion bailout package to help the Zimbabwean economy stay afloat. While Mugabe did not return to Zimbabwe with the bailout package he desired, he did garner $2 billion for a coal mine, power station and dam. In addition, China committed $8 million in food assistance and a $24 million grant to build clinics and schools.

In a recent blog, Africa Growth Initiative Visiting Fellow Yun Sun outlines the longstanding allied relationship between China and Zimbabwe. According to Sun, China has been viewed by some analysts as the “only major international supporter of Zimbabwe.” China has been criticized for continuing to support the longstanding dictator and has taken a more cautious approach when dealing with its African ally. However, with Mugabe’s recent election to first vice-chair of the African Union Bureau, China seems to be reigniting the relationship.

Nigeria Teams up with MasterCard to Launch ID Cards

Nigeria launched new national identification cards this week, and President Goodluck Jonathan received the first card. Each card contains biometric information and has the capability to receive electronic payments. The first phase of the collaborative effort between MasterCard and the Nigerian government will issue cards to 13 million Nigerians. The government plans to use the cards to electronically deliver salaries and pensions to reduce mismanagement of government payments.

Some Nigerians are not excited about the identification cards. The Premium Times reported on citizen’s concerns about the collection of biometric information. Nigerians also reported distrust about the collaboration between MasterCard and the Nigerian government stating, “The new ID card with a MasterCard logo does not represent an identity of a Nigerian. It simply represents a stamped ownership of a Nigerian by an American company.”

Rebels Reject South Sudan Truce Agreement

On Tuesday this week, the South Sudanese government and the opposition faction headed by former Vice President Riek Machar signed a truce agreement that was negotiated by the regional body the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The IGAD accord provides 45 days to establish an interim government for South Sudan. Under the truce agreement, the rebels would be allowed to nominate a prime minister to serve in a 30-month Transitional Government of National Unity, but this prime minister will not be eligible to run in the upcoming presidential election. The agreement also threatened sanctions from IGAD on both the South Sudan government and the rebels if conflict continues. Shortly afterwards, however, the agreement was rejected by the rebel leaders in South Sudan. The rebels stated that they oppose the agreement because it locks current President Salva Kiir into the presidency.

Also on Tuesday in South Sudan, a United Nations helicopter was shot down near the town of Bentiu. The shots were fired from a surface-to-air weapon that killed three of the helicopter’s Russian air crew members. Reportedly, a rebel commander warned the U.N. not to fly over the territory earlier in the week. The South Sudanese government has blamed the attack on rebel forces, a charge that the rebels have denied. The attack violates the Status of Forces agreement and interrupts the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).