Africa: Conflict and governance 2018

Written by  //  April 3, 2018  //  Africa  //  No comments

It might be too early to declare an African Spring – but leaders are being toppled in their droves
In recent months, a trend has emerged with leaders across the continent falling victim to their greed or being brought down by their own parties
(The Ethiopia swore in a new prime minister this week after an overhaul within the ruling party. To onlookers, the transition of power to Abiy Ahmed might seem insignificant. But seen in the context of a continent in flux, it reflects what some are calling the African Spring.
Young and energetic, Mr Abiy’s appointment ends a political crisis that has gripped Africa’s oldest independent nation since the surprise resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn in February.
Some, like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, have attracted global attention. Others, like former Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim – who resigned last month after allegedly spending $27,000 on an NGO credit card – have not. As change sweeps the continent, its young population – likely to surpass 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the UN – are rightly demanding education, employment and increased opportunities from their old-fashioned leaders.
But does this herald a new dawn for African democracy – or will they be left disappointed?
The three biggest downfalls herald from Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Messrs Mugabe, Dos Santos and Zuma were synonymous with liberation struggle. With it comes a sense of entitlement and self-preservation that will live on in their parties after they are gone.
With his purge of Zuma’s allies, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offers the greatest hopes of meaningful change.
But Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr Mugabe’s former vice president who stepped into his shoes and Joao Lourenco, a veteran of the ruling MPLA, may simply offer Zimbabwean and Angolan voters more of what preceded them. For their parties, it is an opportunity to proclaim progress and deliver continuity.
Other recent transitions have been more encouraging. In January 2017, power changed hands after 23 years in Gambia. The election and its aftermath were entirely peaceful. There have been smooth transfers of power between political parties in Ghana and Liberia in recent months. This week, troubled Sierra Leone looks set to be another. Their new leaders, including former footballer George Weah, who took control of Liberia in February, face an avalanche of expectations from their jaded electorates.
In spite – or perhaps because of – its vast mineral wealth, the DRC is today among the world’s poorest countries, cleaved by conflict and grasping foreign powers, both regional and international. Mr Kabila was expected to step down at the end of his term in 2016 but remains in office today, most of his opposition either dead or exiled. But with the influential Catholic church calling for change, protests are growing in frequency and numbers.
Across the border in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni recently bulldozed presidential term and age limits after 32 years in power, causing significant disquiet. To the west, Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist since 1982. When a south-western separatist movement swelled last year, the army reportedly killed 100 protesters. Mr Biya is facing growing popular dissent.
The fate of these three presidents could have considerable implications for Africa’s pro-democracy movement, simmering away since the 1990s. (3 April)

2 April
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a leader of the bloody struggle against South Africa’s white rulers under apartheid, has died at 81.
(NYT) “Charming, intelligent, complex, fiery and eloquent,” our obituary says, Ms. Mandela saw her heroic status “eroded by scandal over corruption, kidnapping, murder and the adulterous implosion of her fabled marriage to Nelson Mandela.”She came to resent her husband’s global celebrity. “I am not Mandela’s product,” she once said. “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy.”
To the end, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela remained a polarizing figure in South Africa, admired by loyalists who were prepared to focus on her contribution to ending apartheid, vilified by critics who foremost saw her flaws. Few could ignore her unsettling contradictions, however. “While there is something of a historical revisionism happening in some quarters of our nation these days that brands Nelson Mandela’s second wife a revolutionary and heroic figure,” the columnist Verashni Pillay wrote in the South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian, “it doesn’t take that much digging to remember the truly awful things she has been responsible for.”

31 March
Congo bishops go to UN to get Kabila to agree to step down
In the absence of any credible opposition and a free press, the Catholic Church is emerging as the only credible voice that can speak up for the people of the Congo in the face of Kabila’s regime
Militia attacks displaced children with machetes in war-ravaged DR Congo
(Sky News) The government line is that it is an old ethnic conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes, but most suspect it is stoked by an unpopular and autocratic government led by President Joseph Kabila, who has exceeded his mandate and is now under growing international pressure to step down and hold elections.
The DRC authorities are getting increasingly impatient with the negative murmurings from outside the country about the worsening situation and the growing humanitarian crisis.

27 March
Bill Gates’ speech that rattled Nigerian govt (FULL TEXT)
Right now, Nigeria’s fiscal situation is at what you might call a low equilibrium. In return for low levels of service, people pay low levels of tax. We hope to help you reach a higher equilibrium rooted in effective and transparent investments in people. This equilibrium would trigger a virtuous cycle.
More government revenue would lead to more money to spend on health and education. Better health and education, and investment in sectors like agriculture, would lead to more productive farms and factories. More productive farms would lead to more prosperous farmers who could expand their farms or invest in other businesses, especially if they had access to credit and other financial tools. These thriving farms, factories, and new businesses would lead to more government revenue. And the cycle would start again.
Triggering that cycle will require bolder action—action you have the power to take as leaders, governors, and ministers focused on Nigeria’s future.

22 March
(The Economist) Simon Baptist: Four months ago this week Robert Mugabe lost his position as president of Zimbabwe. At the time, expectations were running high: Zimbabweans as well as foreigners speculated about what this change could entail, especially given that under Mr Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe went from being one of Africa’s richest countries to one with a devastated economy. It is not an exciting message, but so far the new direction of the country is unclear.
Some of the new government’s statements of intent—such as restoring faith in the local currency and supporting foreign direct investment—are encouraging, but are likely to fall victim both to short-term economic pressures and to elections (which are due by August 2018, but may be delayed). However, there is immediate potential for recovery in sectors such as agriculture and mining, should the policy environment improve. After such a long period under Mr Mugabe’s rule, a gradual transition is one of the more desirable outcomes. But it will be challenging to balance the risks of rapid change with Zimbabweans’ demands for a better life.

21 March
Boko Haram Returns Dozens of Schoolgirls Kidnapped in Nigeria
(NYT) Dozens of schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian community of Dapchi were returned early Wednesday morning, dropped off by the same group of Boko Haram militants who kidnapped them more than a month ago as they offered a stern warning to never go back to school again.
The surprising turn of events was greeted with joy from parents whose daughters were safely returned, but the relief was tempered by suspicions that several girls had died while in the hands of the militants. At least one is apparently still being held.

20 March
Cambridge Analytica Had a Role in Kenya Election, Too
(NYT) Senior officials of Cambridge Analytica, whose parent company is the SCL Group, said in an undercover video by Channel 4 News of Britain that the company played a critical role in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two campaigns, in 2013 and 2017.

The revelations come only weeks after Mr. Kenyatta and his chief rival, Raila Odinga, reconciled after months of contention.
In the video, Mark Turnbull, a Cambridge Analytica executive, said the company twice rebranded Mr. Kenyatta’s political party, wrote his campaign speeches and his political platform, and twice conducted surveys of 50,000 people to ascertain Kenyan voters’ hope and fears.

18 February
Nigeria releases 475 Boko Haram suspects for rehabilitation
Authorities said some suspected of links with militants had been held without trial since 2010
(The Guardian) The first person convicted for the kidnapping in 2014 of Chibok schoolgirls, sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment last week, was also handed an additional 15-year sentence, to run back-to-back, the ministry said in a statement.
More than 20,000 people have been killed and 2 million forced to flee their homes in north-eastern Nigeria since Boko Haram began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state.
A Placeholder Prime Minister Departs. What Comes Next?
(NYT) A day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia abruptly resigned, the country declared a state of emergency on Friday. The second such decree in less than two years, martial law was reimposed amid reports of a bitter succession struggle, a worrying development for a country buckling under years of political unrest.

17 February
Zuma’s fall a chance to take moral leadership in Africa
(BBC) South Africa has always been a nation to surprise. And to infuriate. And to inspire.
It is like no other country I have ever reported from.
From my first experiences in the apartheid 1980s to the rise of President Cyril Ramaphosa, it has frequently havered between the possibility of disaster and triumph, sometimes accommodating both possibilities within the space of a single day.
The fall of Jacob Zuma came about, in part, because of several uniquely South African dynamics.

16 February
President Cyril Ramaphosa pledges ‘new dawn’ for South Africa
Mr Ramaphosa, who was sworn in on Thursday, promised to “turn the tide of corruption”.
He also spoke of accelerating land redistribution and outlined plans to boost the economy and create jobs.
His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, stepped down on Wednesday after pressure from the governing ANC party. He faces numerous corruption allegations.

25 January
A Crisis in Cameroon is Forcing English Speakers to Flee in Alarming Numbers
This potentially brewing conflict is an off-the-radar crisis that does not attract a great deal of attention, but has both significant regional and global implications.
(UN Dispatch) Over 10,000 people have fled from English speaking regions of Cameroon to neighboring Nigeria in recent weeks. They are escaping an ongoing crackdown by Cameroonian security forces against a movement that is demanding greater autonomy for English speaking regions from the French dominated central government.
In Cameroon, the struggle for more equal political rights and power by English speaking regions is a longstanding issue. It’s commonly known as “the Anglophone problem.” Over the past couple of years an Anglophone protest movement has gained increased strength and visibility. And over the past several months the government response to this movement has become increasingly violent and draconian. Meanwhile, some fringe splinter groups have decided to take up arms against the government.

18 January
Islamists banned their music. Now Timbuktu is singing again
(The Guardian) Secessionists and Islamists linked to al-Qaida seized control of the city in 2012. The latter, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) enforced Islamic law, forcing women to cover up, flogging people for wearing perfume, and tearing down saints’ graves and a mosque door that legend had it would remain closed until the end of the world.
Musicians received death threats; their instruments were burned. One Islamist arrived at a radio station that had collected decades’ worth of local music one day and carted all the tapes away in rice sacks.
But some look back on it as a time of great musical creativity. “We composed a lot of music during the crisis, but inside houses, in secret,” said Abdulrahman Cissé, a mechanic and musician known locally as Adé, who did backing vocals for Arby, sitting crosslegged on a duvet laid out in a nook of his small courtyard. “We were singing about what we were going through, to transmit the message about what happened.” …
The jihadists fled when French soldiers advanced, in January 2013, and since then life in Timbuktu has edged towards normality. Groups of women in lipstick and red-gold dresses pray openly at the tombs of the city’s 333 saints. Giggling teenagers tease each other in an ornate doorway, leading to the house where the German explorer Heinrich Barth once stayed. Young women in leggings, three to a motorbike, whizz round the earthen Djinguereber mosque, their hair flying.
But in the region outside the city, attacks continue against the UN, military, and civilians. Four days before the concert, five workers installing fibre-optic cables were killed to the south of Timbuktu.
A succession of forces has tried to wrest back control of Mali’s vast northern plains; the latest of these, the G5 Sahel, is composed of soldiers from the five countries affected by the crisis – Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad – and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have just announced that they will contribute $150m, in addition to the $60m from the US and $59m from the EU.

“A Nightmare In Heaven” — Why Nobody Is Talking About The Holocaust in Congo
President Joseph Kabila of Congo — who was due out of office last year — shows no sign of stepping down. But his persistent presence is about more than the denial of democracy. Kabila represents a long line of dictators who have cost the Congo more than 15 Million Black men, women, and children since 1961. But the blame does not start with Joseph Kabila. He is but one of many who benefit from the largest humanitarian crisis modern history that no one wants to talk about.
Before the 19th Century, the area that we call the Congo was populated by some of the greatest civilizations in history. We know from The Destruction of Black Civilization that the Kingdoms that preceded present day Congo were shining examples of achievement. From Kuba under Shyaam the Great to the Matamba Kingdom under Ngola Kambolo, the Congo was a cradle of culture and democracy (10 April 2017)

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