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Who’s in charge here? West Africa coups complicate UN diplomacy
NEW YORK — It’s an awkward week to be an African country at the U.N. General Assembly — especially when it’s not clear who’s in charge in parts of the continent. Uncertainties reigned about delegations for Niger and Gabon, two countries whose civilian governments were overthrown in military coups in the two months leading up to the gathering. Also roaming the halls are leaders from the regional bloc of West African nations, ECOWAS, which is threatening military action against the Nigerien junta. Gabon, meanwhile, is sitting in a very prominent spot as one of the rotating members of the Security Council. The heads of state of Niger and Gabon were both originally slated to speak to the General Assembly on Thursday — without any clarity about who would give those speeches. But their slots were skipped over entirely, before Gabon’s junta-appointed interim prime minister, Raymond Ndong Sima, was added back to the schedule for Friday. Meanwhile, Gabon’s U.N. staff has not changed since before the coup. And it is not clear who is representing Niger: Both the junta and the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum have been fighting over who gets a seat in the Assembly Hall . For many critics of the U.N., the confusion around Niger and Gabon’s participation is just another example of how the consortium of world governments — meant to maintain peace and security across borders — often lacks the teeth or consensus to do just that. It frequently has difficulty deciding how to handle sudden, violent changes in control of member states — and if it has responded, the messaging has varied widely. When the military seized power in Chad in 2021, for instance, “there was no serious rebuke against Chad from any corner,” said Solomon Deresso , head of the African Union’s Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In many other cases, “the U.N. simply recognizes the de-facto authority,” Deresso said. There was more pushback on military coups in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and there’s been a general uproar over the coup in Niger. The U.N. Security Council issued a statement in July condemning the putsch in Niger and calling for the release of Bazoum, who has been under house arrest, refusing to resign, since the military seized control in July. The Security Council has meanwhile not issued any statements on Gabon, where the Armed Forces launched a coup just minutes after the Gabonese Electoral Commission announced that Ali Bongo had won the election on August 30. The Bongo family had ruled the country for nearly 60 years. Sima, the interim prime minister, has said the military government aims to transition back to civilian rule in two years . Regional groups like the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States also haven’t made consistent responses to military takeovers. That’s leaving doubts about whether ECOWAS will actually follow through on the threat of military intervention in Niger. “Obviously inconsistency will cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of [military intervention],” Deresso said. The recent coups also make it more difficult for African countries to fight the old narrative that they’re part of a continent beset by insecurity rather than one full of potential business partners with economies worth investing in. African countries have made progress doing that in recent years, garnering trade and infrastructure deals from China, Russia and the West — often benefiting from global rivalries . But at summits and global gatherings many still say they feel like they’re either being treated as pawns or shunted aside when convenient. “Failures in good governance have hindered Africa. But broken promises, unfair treatment and outright exploitation from abroad have also exacted a heavy toll on our ability to progress,” newly elected Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said in his speech to the Assembly . Still, militaries have overthrown governments in seven sub-Saharan African countries in the past two years. Many of these coups have similar themes: Economic troubles, government corruption, anti-West sentiment and pro-Russia leanings. So many democracies on the continent see stability at risk. “In Africa, the resurgence of coups d’etat remains a subject of grave concern,” said Senegalese President Macky Sall during his speech at the General Assembly. He is facing protests in New York this week amid a political crisis and a contested election back home . Other leaders including those of Ghana and Sierra Leone spoke of the instability of the region. Onlookers are noting a trend. “This is something that creates a new reality,” said Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský of the slate of coups in Africa. “We are witnessing democratic backsliding in many countries.” Many African delegates at the gathering would rather not directly address the recent military takeovers in Niger or Gabon. POLITICO reached out to all 54 African U.N. missions and none were willing to discuss the coups with a reporter. Still Tinubu, who is also chair of ECOWAS, was pointed in his speech. “We must affirm democratic governance as the best guarantor of sovereign will and well-being of the people,” Tinubu said. “Military coups are wrong,” he said, adding that his government is negotiating with military leaders in Niger. Meanwhile, some longtime stalwarts of democracy in the region may find themselves struggling to maintain it. Earlier this week, the Ghanaian Armed Forces assured the public that there won’t be a coup , in response to concerns about military takeovers in the region. Various African bodies are also in disagreement about how to handle Niger. ECOWAS has said it has a “D-Day” for intervening if diplomatic efforts don’t yield a transition to a civilian government, though it hasn’t disclosed when that might be. The group has rejected the junta’s proposed three-year transition to civilian rule as a provocation . Nigeria has taken one bold move by cutting off most of Niger’s electricity supply. The African Union has been trying to find a middle ground — while it wouldn’t endorse the ECOWAS threat of military intervention, it also hasn’t outright ruled out the possibility either . For his part, Deresso argued that if an ECOWAS military intervention is successful, it creates new problems. “You risk Niger being overrun by terrorist groups,” he said. “You end up with another Libya.” The United Nations, often criticized as a talking shop, is unlikely to be the place where consensus is reached — especially given that other crises have the world’s attention these days. “There’s a very strong feeling that Ukraine tends to suck the attention out of the international discussions,” said Sarah Cliffe, head of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation. “Some of these forgotten crises don’t get a similar level of attention.” Published by POLITICO Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.
Rising coups in West Africa
Sir : The wave of military coups in the region – Mali in 2020 and 2021, Guinea in 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and recently Niger in July, and now Gabon a Central African country in late August, raises serious concerns regarding the long-term stability of democratic governance in the region. It is disheartening to note that West Africa, once seen as a beacon of democratic progress, is now plagued by political upheavals and coups d’état. The increasing number of such incidents is a clear indication of the leadership deficiency facing the region. This deficiency in leadership not only threatens the stability of individual countries but also undermines the development of West Africa as a whole. For a community to function well, it needs to have a democratic government and peaceful transfers of power. Unfortunately, West Africa has been plagued by a series of coups, which have exposed the fragility of democratic institutions and the mistrust of political processes. Countries that have fought for democracy for many years are now grappling with the reality that coups are becoming more common than fair elections. This trend highlights the failure of elected officials to uphold the principles of democracy and responsible governance. One of the primary reasons behind the increasing number of coups in certain countries is the prevalent culture of corruption and impunity. This culture has weakened the foundations of these nations, eroded public trust, and jeopardized the provision of essential services. As a result, ordinary people bear the brunt of socio-economic hardships. Leaders gaining riches while infrastructure and services erode causes political instability and military intervention. The absence of capable leadership has led to the neglect of crucial industries such as job creation, healthcare, and education, particularly affecting young people in West Africa. They face significant challenges in finding employment and accessing quality healthcare and education facilities. Power-hungry individuals exploit their frustration with this difficult situation for political gain, leading to a sense of pessimism and vulnerability among the youth. The incapacity of leaders to address these pressing issues demonstrates a lack of vision and short-sightedness that is detrimental to the long-term development of the region. Unfortunately, many leaders prioritize self-enrichment and personal aggrandizement over inclusive policies and sustainable economic growth. This short-sighted strategy not only destroys the social contract that supports stable governance but also alienates the public. It is important for leaders to have a long-term vision that promotes growth and benefits everyone in the community. In West Africa, effective leadership involves promoting harmony and inclusivity among diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. This is crucial to prevent political unrest and violence that have historically resulted from ethnic conflicts. Leaders must continuously work towards overcoming differences, forging a national identity, and promoting social cohesiveness. Conversely, ineffective leadership can result in the exploitation of these divisions, leading to ongoing instability and unrest. It is important for both regional and international players to collaborate and support efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, promote good governance, and foster economic development in West Africa. This is necessary to address the increasing number of coups and leadership deficiencies in the region. However, this support should come with conditions attached, encouraging leaders to be more accountable, transparent, and responsive to the needs of their citizens. The region must see this trend as a wake-up call and work together to retrace its steps on the road to stable governance, sustainable development, and steady peace. Written by: Tosin Afeniforo IUSS Pavia, Italy
Youth Activists Fear Limited Public Awareness Can Affect Sierra Leone’s 2023 Elections
[Accra- 13 June] - Sierra Leone’s government says the West African country is ready to hold peaceful, free and fair elections come June 24, a news report by Ghana News Agency, said on May 30. In the report, Bockarie Albert Kalokoh, a Deputy Minister of Finance of the country, said in an interview with the news agency, that the country was all set to go to the polls to decide on who becomes the next President, Members of Parliament, Mayors and local councillors this month. Despite all assurances on the country’s preparedness, some Sierra Leoneans youth activists say there has not been enough public education and awareness about the electoral processes which they fear can affect the outcome of the elections. According to the activists, Philip Kanu who works with the Sierra Leone Autistic Society (SLAS) and Yorpoi Matilda from OTC Kenema Opportunity Training Centre, the country needs more public education and awareness regarding the electoral processes. They believe there are thousands of Sierra Leoneans who have little or no knowledge about how they can freely cast their vote. For this reason, they are unanimously calling on the Electoral Commission (EC) to intensify public education about the electoral processes especially for young people to prevent any possible disenfranchisements. The activists were speaking with a Team from the Electoral Integrity in West Africa (ELIWA) in Accra,Ghana on 23 May 2023. Philip Kanu of SLAS also implored the Government to sensitise the youth about peace, security and violence prevention as he believed that was one of the best ways to ensure peaceful polls. "Regardless of ethnicity, we are one people, and we have one country, so we should not allow elections to divide us. Elections promote unity, not disunity," he said. While Kanu was optimistic this year’s elections, if well conducted, will help strengthen the democratic credentials of the country, he lamented the failure of some of the political parties to prioritise important areas of development. “The political parties are not giving more attention to how to empower the youth and I am worried about that,” he said. Yorpoi Matilda of OTC Kenema Opportunity Training Centre thinks there is a need for effective communication during and after the elections. “It is very important for the EC to also ensure that the public has access to accurate and timely information about electoral results and related matters to promote transparency and trust in the process,” she said. She admonished the youth to be agents of social, political and economic change to propel the country’s development for “a better Sierra Leone.” " All of us should go out and vote. Sierra Leone is our country, and we must decide on how to run it. Our future is at stake,” Matilda said. Meanwhile, a new research report by Issa Bangura, an Advocacy and Communication Officer at Defence for Children International in Sierra Leone, has revealed that the Sierra Leone’s EC is technically and financially less prepared for the country’s elections. In the report scheduled to be launched on 15 June 2023 , 47% of civil society organisations in the country think the electoral body is not fully prepared for the country’s big day. Thirteen (13) candidates, including incumbent president, Julius Maada Bio of the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) and Samura Karama of the All People’s Congress (APC), who was the runner-up in the 2018 polls are contesting the Presidential slot in the Sierra Leone’s 2023 elections.
Afrique de l’ouest : Comment renforcer la démocratie pour endiguer l’extrémisme violent ?
Source des photos: Aljazeera L’Afrique de l’ouest est une zone où l’intégration régionale fonctionne plus ou moins bien grâce aux efforts et acquis de la communauté économique des états de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CEDEAO). Cependant, la pratique démocratique diffère d’un pays à un autre avec les pays anglophones en tête du peloton et les francophones à la traine. Cette situation a malheureusement réveillé les vieux démons des coups d’Etat militaires. Trois régimes militaires sont en cours au Mali, Guinée et Burkina Faso. Une situation qui fragilise une sous-région africaine déjà marquée par les terroristes devenus maîtres du Sahel d’où les pays peinent à les déloger. Comment renforcer la démocratie en Afrique de l’Ouest ? La démocratie pourrait-elle contribuer à endiguer l’extrémisme violent ? La démocratie en péril L’Afrique de l’ouest ne compte aucun pays démocratique en 2022 selon l’indice sur la démocratie publié en février 2023, par l'Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Cet indice fournit annuellement l’état de la démocratie dans 165 États indépendants et deux territoires dans le monde. L’étude se base sur cinq critères principaux : le processus électoral, le fonctionnement du gouvernement, la participation politique, la culture politique et les libertés civiles. En fonction des scores obtenus, les pays sont classés dans quatre régimes. Ces régimes sont : « démocratie complète », « démocratie imparfaite », « régime hybride » ou « régime autoritaire ». Deux pays de la zone sont considérés comme des démocraties imparfaites : le Cap-Vert et le Ghana soit 12.5% tandis que huit sont des régimes hydrides soit 50%. Ce sont le Sénégal, Libéria, Sierra-Leone, Gambie, Bénin, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire et la Mauritanie. Six pays demeurent des régimes autoritaires soit 37.5% : Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Guinée-Bissau et Guinée. Les régimes hybrides sont les États où les élections comportent régulièrement des fraudes électorales, les empêchant d'être des démocraties libres et transparentes. Ces États ont souvent des gouvernements appliquant des pressions sur l'opposition politique, possédant une justice n'étant pas indépendante, une corruption généralisée, pratiquant du harcèlement et des pressions sur les médias, possédant un État de droit anémique et des défauts plus prononcés que les démocraties imparfaites en ce qui concerne une culture politique sous-développée, un faible niveau de la participation politique et des problèmes dans le système de gouvernance. Par conséquent, dans la plupart des pays ouest africains l’on constate l’absence d’un Etat de droit et une mauvaise gestion marquée par les détournements de fonds publics et une corruption galopante. Cependant, les citoyens ne peuvent se débarrasser de dirigeants qu’ils ne veulent plus faute de processus électoraux démocratiques. Il devient alors utopique pour les opposants politiques d’espérer une alternance au pouvoir au moyen des élections. Car les dirigeants ne respectent ni les lois étatiques ni les normes et principes démocratiques. Pire, les constitutions sont tripatouillées à des fins personnelles en vue de consacrer une présidence à vie. D’où les troisièmes mandats avec leurs corolaires de contestations populaires, de violations des droits de l’homme, de violences meurtrières et d’emprisonnement des opposants politiques. En 2020, la Côte d’Ivoire, le Togo et la Guinée ont sombré dans ces troisièmes mandats. Cela a fait le lit du coup d’Etat militaire en Guinée ayant écourté le troisième mandat du président Alpha Condé. Avant lui, les militaires avaient renversé le président Ibrahim Kéita du Mali affaibli par une contestation populaire dénonçant sa gouvernance. Puis, les militaires burkinabés ont déposé leur président Christian Roch Kaboré arguant de l’échec de sa gouvernance sécuritaire face aux djihadistes du Sahel. Actuellement, le Sénégal est en ébullition car les opposants politiques et les citoyens soupçonnent le président Macky Sall de vouloir briguer un troisième mandat anticonstitutionnel. Le non-respect des lois, normes et principes démocratiques fragilise la paix dans la région et devient une source d’instabilité chronique. Cela en fait un terreau pour les réseaux djihadistes devenus maitres du Sahel. La nécessité d’un nouveau leadership de la CEDEAO Face à ces tragédies, la CEDEAO peine à trouver des solutions adéquates. Ses sanctions et pressions sur les régimes militaires pour organiser des élections, dans de plus brefs délais, en vue d’un retour des civils au pouvoir ont échoué. Elles n’ont pas été comprises par les citoyens ouest africains qui comme nombre d’observateurs déplorent son incohérence. En effet, la CEDEAO s’est montrée ferme contre les coups d’Etat militaire tandis qu’elle a toléré les coups d’Etats constitutionnels ayant ouvert la voie aux troisièmes mandats et la présidence à vie. Cependant, il faut saluer la saisine de la commission par les chefs d’Etat en vue de leur proposer des solutions pour endiguer les coups d’Etat militaire. A cet effet, la commission a fait deux propositions dont l’une relative à la révision du protocole additionnel de 2001 sur la démocratie et la bonne gouvernance en vue d’y insérer la limitation des mandats présidentiels à deux dans toute la zone même en cas de changement de constitution et la mise sur pieds d’une force anti-coup d’Etat militaire. Malheureusement, trois pays ont rejeté la limitation des mandats présidentiels : le Togo, le Sénégal et la Côte d’Ivoire. Toutefois, la CEDEAO devrait réaffirmer son leadership dans l’optique de la consolidation de la paix dans la région en se donnant tous les moyens pour faire adopter la révision de son protocole consacrant la limitation des mandats présidentiels à deux et un meilleur respect des principes démocratiques dans les Etats membres. Un comité de veille pourrait être mis sur pieds pour veiller au respect du nouveau protocole. Il devrait être composé d’anciens chefs d’Etat de la région et des leaders d’opinion issus de la société civile. La force anti-coup d’Etat militaire devrait être remplacée par une force chargée de faire appliquer les décisions du comité de veille. Ce renouveau du leadership de la CEDEAO serait salutaire et soutenu par les populations ouest africaines. Les bénéfices d’un meilleur exercice de la démocratie dans la sous-région Un meilleur exercice de la démocratie en Afrique de l’Ouest permettrait de renforcer la légitimité des dirigeants. Car ils seront issus de processus électoraux démocratiques. Etant vraiment redevables aux citoyens qui les ont élus, ils s’évertueront à améliorer la gestion publique en luttant plus efficacement contre la corruption. Les alternances seraient pacifiques. Tout cela contribuerait à consolider la paix et l’unité nationale dans les Etats ouest africains. La bonne gestion et allocation des ressources étatiques contribuera à booster le développement et réduire la pauvreté et la misère. Ainsi, de plus en plus de jeunes se détourneraient des réseaux djihadistes puisqu’ils sont à l’abris du besoin. Les armées ouest africaines seront mieux entretenues et plus performantes. Elles ne seront plus confinées à espionner les opposants politiques et harceler les leaders d’opinion. Ce retour à l’Etat de droit serait aussi bénéfique pour la CEDEAO. Elle pourrait alors trouver des fonds auprès de ses membres et de ses partenaires pour bien entretenir sa force militaire et lui assigner la mission de déloger les djihadistes du Sahel. Cette lutte frontale contre l’extrémisme violent serait totalement soutenue par les populations. Elles deviendront de vrais alliés pour les militaires. Cela contribuerait à venir à bout des djihadistes dans le Sahel et les bouter hors de la région ouest africaine. Le concept de la CEDEAO des peuples deviendrait alors une réalité. Car les populations ouest africaines seraient activement impliquées dans l’intégration sous régionale pour le bien commun. D’où l’émergence d’une société civile ouest africaine plus forte travaillant de concert avec les dirigeants pour le développement accru de la région et le bien-être des populations. En définitive, la démocratie est en péril en Afrique de l’Ouest. Cela fait le lit des tensions qui dans certains pays se sont transformées en coups d’Etat militaire (Guinée, Mali et Burkina- Faso). La CEDEAO pourrait affirmer son leadership en matière de démocratie dans la région en améliorant son protocole additionnel de 2001 sur la démocratie et la bonne gouvernance pour y inscrire la limitation des mandats présidentiels à deux s’imposant à tous les dirigeants. Un meilleur exercice de la démocratie dans la région aurait une incidence positive sur la consolidation de la paix et donc sur la question de l’extrémisme violent. La CEDEAO consolidée par les acquis du nouveau protocole et la paix retrouvée dans la plupart des pays aurait donc les coudées plus franges pour s’attaquer frontalement à l’extrémisme violent. Elle pourrait alors trouver des fonds auprès de ses membres et ses partenaires internationaux pour bien entretenir sa force afin qu’elle combatte efficacement les djihadistes dans le Sahel. Le soutien total des populations serait un atout pour remporter ce combat. Une nouvelle ère s’ouvrirait dans la zone marquée par la paix retrouvée, le développement en marche et l’amélioration des conditions de vies des populations. Le slogan CEDEAO des peuples trouverait alors tout son sens.
Elections: The bane of Nigeria’s existence
Written by Dorcas Ettang and earlier published by The Premium Times, Nigeria Image source: www.okayafrica.com Elections contribute to the success of a democracy because they allow people to choose who they want to serve them – not to rule over, oppress or exploit them. But elections are also a persistent feature in false democracies: they are riddled with irregularities, inaccuracies, and hiccups, all held together by the corruption that is built into such systems. Nigeria is a case in point. The latest elections present some familiar characteristics from previous elections in the country. These characteristics include: Corruption: As with every election in Nigeria, corruption rears its ugly head through the disbursement of funds to key individuals who have access to votes and can manipulate and alter the numbers and cause insecurity. This is also evident in the bribery for votes. An article in 2016 by Gram Matenga shows that in Nigeria, only 6% of citizens believe that there is no bribing for votes in the country. The practice of vote-buying in Nigeria is not new, as voters have been offered food, clothing and jobs in return for their votes. Vote-buying also occurs throughout the electoral cycle, from voter registration, party nominations, campaigns, and even on the election day. On election days , politicians conspire with elections officials to monitor voting behaviour and agents are hired at key voting stations to determine how people vote, and they compensate them for this. The public and private destruction of legitimate votes, ballot snatching, the “creation” of new votes from non-existent individuals, are all part of these corrupt practices. In days preceding the 2023 elections, reports and accusations of corruption between political candidates increased significantly, thus shedding light on the engrained culture of corruption, even by these individuals when in political office. The head of the local chapter of Transparency International, Auwal Rafsanjani, notes that party primaries presented clear cases of corruption, where vote-buying and bribing were common. The practice of ‘hijacking and commercialising’ the primaries make it difficult for honest candidates to emerge. In the recent elections, electoral observers noted the manipulation of votes on a large scale, the compromise of the new electronic voting system – the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), long delays in counting the votes, and photographic proofs of vote counts having major irregularities. Fact checking organisation, Africa check , noted that information from the ground showed polling results from a unit in Sokoto State was uploaded in another unit in Rivers State. The switching of results was also reported in units in Imo, Lagos, and Rivers states. Elitistism: Alliances are made between various elites to toss the country around amongst each other every eight years or so, as they see fit. Adekunle Adekoya notes how political parties are ‘special purpose vehicles’ where these elite alliances congregate to accumulate political power and access the resources of the nation. Politicians therefore campaign and win on a specific party platform, and after completing their terms, they defect to other parties or, in some instances, create their own parties. They fail to engage with the general population, except when their votes are needed. These elitist pacts overpower the voices of the many others who face very difficult conditions every day. Because of this, elections are about whose turn it is to pillage resources, sit at the helm of power and reward allies, and not about improving the economic, political, and security situations of the country. This form of elitism is when the ordinary people cannot vote for whom they want, but the elite decide using their resources, networks, and actions to influence the voting process. The constant crossing across party lines and defections by the political elite is very common, and in many instances they are not guided by issues or policies but personal interests and ambitions for power . In 2021, the defections of political elites like the Governor of Ebonyi State, Dave Umahi; Minister for Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio; Senator Elisha Abbo; former governor of Oyo State, Christopher Alao Akala; a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva; and current Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, from the PDP to the APC, shows the elitist politics in Nigeria. According to Ayo Olukotun, these defectors switch parties in order to be awarded key political appointments or to forestall their prosecution or persecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. According to Emelike and Iniobong, in their many years of existence, the elite in Nigeria protect their assets and during elections make promises but fail to keep them. This elitist approach is seen through the divvying up of Nigeria’s resources and sharing positions among themselves, while leaving the rest of the country in massive underdevelopment and poverty. In his work, “Elite conspiracy against Nigerians”, Lekan Sote describes the elite consensus in Nigeria as “conspiracy against the interest of the poor masses and the most cunning scheme to convert the commonwealth of the country to the advantage of a few”. Exclusion: Citizens are cut off from participating fully in elections. This is apparent through disallowing them from voting, using thugs and security sector personnel to terrify them off, unnecessary delays at voting stations, and non-supply of voting material. An article by Times Magazine on 1 March highlighted the strategy and structure of violence and theft in Nigeria’s elections. According to the Head of a women’s rights non-profit organisation called TechHerNG, who has been monitoring Nigeria’s elections since 2011, this strategy and structure of violence and theft were also evident in the recent elections, which resulted in the final outcome. The ECOWAS Electoral Observer Mission reported the late arrival of polling officials, delay in delivery of voting materials and delivery of the wrong voting materials at various polling stations. Reports from Channels News provide first-hand accounts of armed men shooting in the air in an active voting ward and burning ballot boxes, which means that some votes were not counted. News reports by Africa News and DW News present scattered episodes of violence at various polling stations across the country, with armed men stealing ballot boxes in efforts to disrupt the process and prevent people from voting. According to political analysts , there have been disruptions like these but on a larger scale in previous elections. What is most alarming is that these characteristics have become well-established norms. These norms are captured by the “winner-takes-all ” mentality that defines Nigeria’s elections, where individuals use all their resources and networks to win by all means, and violence is used through physical attacks on party candidates, their supporters, campaigns and voting sites. All of Nigeria’s elections since 1999 have been characterised by violence, delays, and allegations of fraud. The practice of vote buying includes buying voter cards from individuals to be used by someone else on voting day, the selling of empty voter registration cards to politicians from opposition parties and the use of funds (alleged to be ranging from $16 million to $25 million) in buying votes, as was the case during the 2015 primaries. The practice of party switching can be deemed as an inescapable reality of Nigerian politics as it is significant in winning or retention the of power, thus it is a highly common practice during elections. Norms here mean that elections in Nigeria will continue to be carried out in dishonest, elitist, and exclusionary manners – all of which are the antitheses of true democracy and fair elections. It is almost as if the expectation and the resulting action is that political parties, along with their party representatives and constituents, will continue to engage in elections fraud and rigging because it has become a regular way of practicing politics in the country. For the most part, Nigeria’s elections have always delivered on reports of elections rigging, manipulation of votes, threatening and disruptions of voting sites and paying whatever amount is needed to shift the votes to favour the highest “bidder”. The bright light in all of this is the commitment of the Nigerian people to the elections process. This was evident in the longest voter turnout ever and their efforts, commitment, and peer support in obtaining their permanent voter cards (PVC), waiting to vote for hours on end and in spite of violent disruptions, waiting to see the votes counted and loudly questioning every dishonest action or activity. They have to contend with “those” who work aggressively and at all costs to manipulate, rig and win the elections, no matter what. These “others” show they have no respect or regard for the elections process and for the democracy they promote so loudly in public. Elections can be an important and true reflection of the people’s ability to choose if: There are new political parties that are not just a reflection of ethno-religious entities, but which present candidates that have proven records of performance, have shown fair and transparent use of funds, held records of ethical behaviour and practices, and had the right skills and abilities to perform their roles effectively; The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is reviewed and composed of individuals who are not biased, and decentralised structures (in partnership with civil society and an unbiased media) that will ensure elections are devoid of influences that manipulate the vote. INEC must act immediately on the evidence of rigging; There is a zero-tolerance policy for vote manipulation, thuggery and elections rigging. There should be speedy and rapid prosecution with dire consequences; There are grassroots-led processes of unlearning the current practice of elections and newer processes of learning how elections should be conducted as they are meant to be: fair, organised, safe, inclusive, egalitarian, and above-board. This involves educating and equipping the general population on their rights and responsibilities as citizens; Political parties are held to the highest standards of ethical and appropriate electoral behaviours. The use of inciting language, corrupt practices, thuggery, and any other actions that jeopardise the election process should not be allowed or tolerated. Party members and representatives should be held accountable for their corrupt activities and inflammatory language before, during and after elections. As long as elections are not conducted as fairly as possible in their entirety: involving a process where citizens decide who to vote for without manipulation, fear or force, Nigeria’s false democracy will become the reality for many years to come. Elections should be simply what they are: that people vote, and their choices serve them. They should not be spaces for haggling, disruption, chaos, triviality, and further corruption. Dorcas Ettang is a senior lecturer in political science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She holds a PhD in Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies.
Election bureaucracies, Office of the Citizens and the future of democracy in Nigeria
By Samuel Akpobome Orovwuje “ Never be disappointed and never lose your hope and fortitude when all that you see around is only shadows. Because if there are shadows, there must also be sources of light nearby. Find them, take them with you to illuminate your trail and make shadows disappear!” – John Baldwin For the first time in two decades, young Nigerians came out in droves to elect a new government. They were at the forefront of a critical mass rising up against treacherous politicians and their collaborators. The conduct of the 2023 general elections in Nigeria suffers from a continuing general crisis of election bureaucracies. The announcement of the results was a signal for political violence to be unleashed across the country. It is beyond doubt that the process was marred by irregularities and below global best practices. Generally, when there is chaos around state institutions, leaders should reflect on how that affects the citizens. Does it bring out the leadership skills and desire to organise, communicate and respect the aspirations of citizens? It is crucial for public leaders in a chaotic situation to pause and rethink their process failures and challenges in the interest of the common good. The sad reality of bureaucracies is that they are characterised by a partisan-political staff and, to a large extent, the politicisation of appointments to the extent that the public servants have become shamelessly partisan. Bureaucracies in Nigeria lack the focus on credibility, rigour and the important social obligation of conducting elections. INEC as a public institution has a responsibility to promote transparency, credibility and self-censorship. Therefore, conflict of interest, confusion and mistrust have damaged the system in the eye of the public. The lack of all these key building blocks is suspect and it needs public scrutiny and interrogation beyond the election tribunals and, ultimately, the Supreme Court. Specific key subject areas in innovation — with a focus on new technology (BIVAS) and data analytics — supply chain, inventory planning and materials management remain tailbacks in public policy and administration in Nigeria. Another big challenge that we need to note is how elections are delivered, with the unwholesome practices by treacherous politicians and bureaucratic appointees in the election governance value-chain. The key questions to ask are: How has geopolitics become more important in this election? How should it not be incorporated into the building blocks? How has geopolitics affected leadership recruitment at the national and state levels? In the light of election uncertainty, along with a mix of claims and counter- claims, how do we prepare citizens for a future of managing episodic election disruption by compromised institutional bureaucracies of policing, state security and the armed forces? How do we maintain integrity from institutional corruption? Interestingly, the changing demography of millennial and Gen Z is fast becoming the new determinant in shaping the future of a new republic. The implication is naturally a major change in voting behaviour and patterns. If we acknowledge how very different the millennial are from the compromised political elite and power mongers, then election bureaucracies are increasingly in trouble. For instance, the millennial are less loyal to the older generation and a lot more technology-driven compared with their Generation Y counterparts. Millennial are also known to hold very dearly the values of diversity, equity and inclusion — and these often reflect in their choices. Therefore, if politicians and their corrupt bureaucratic surrogates do not pay attention to operational details and align with the changing technology correctness, political geography and the evolving standard of youthful and empowered citizens in driving credible leadership selection, then the treacherous politicians will be shown their way out in a manner that might threaten public peace. It should be noted that the youths are showing some signs of rebellion against the current political status quo and social conditions. At this moment, the youth are not consistently able to avoid falling prey to political and ethnic war propaganda. The number of youths that are not interested in politics and public leadership has diminished quickly over the last two decades. There is an emergence of a sophisticated section of voters with very distinct electoral behaviour and values. They are digital first in their voting preferences and technologically savvy, detail-oriented and clear-minded on whom they want to lead them. They are unbending and unapologetic about their expectations of a new Nigeria. Going forward, it is also in the interest of judicial bureaucracies to re-imagine their judicial pronouncements devoid of jurisprudential technicality. The legal fireworks of the presidential and governorship elections will be stiffer this year and only a judicial pronouncement with measured readiness for transparency, fairness and justice will be a sweet-savour and validate the supremacy of institutions to dispense justice without fear or favour. The political elite that have been hypocritically dependent on illicit wealth, bribery and capture of state institutions are doomed. Candidates without legitimacy and sincerity of purpose to muster trust and credibility will struggle in this election cycle and beyond. A country built on the power of money, where the common man begs and a handful of the elite are parasitising, cannot thrive, and democracy without legitimacy and accountability cannot stand. Citizens need to rise up to the challenges of corrupt bureaucracies and political jobbers and advocate for the right leaders who have the mindset and capabilities to change Nigeria for good. It is not enough to have the right mindset and capabilities. We need leaders that can build systems, structures and interventions that deliver hope and progress. We must tell political opportunists in high places that the cheap talk about democracy and the rule of law without action is sheer hypocrisy. Lastly, Nigeria is currently on the verge of a new era that will deal a severe blow to corrupt episodic elections and leadership recruitment. The country has been under the burden of various internal contradictions, historical injustices and socio-economic unviability. Without a better leadership alternative, the country will go downhill into even greater chaos. The youths have revived hope that something other than this socio-political pain in the neck is possible. Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos. Orovwuje50@gmail.com , 08034745325
Africa decides 2023: Elections in the shadow of humanitarian crisis
Ten African countries are scheduled to organise presidential elections in 2023 in contests that will both shape and be shaped by humanitarian crises. These countries include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Libya , Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan , Sudan , and Zimbabwe. An election will also occur in Somaliland, the de facto state still treated in official diplomatic circles as part of Somalia. In total, these countries represent about a third of the continent’s population. With only a few exceptions, the polls will take place in the shadow of conflict and unrest. The underlying causes of these emergencies do not lend themselves to quick fixes. Yet credible elections can help strengthen the legitimacy of the state to deal with the difficulties of the challenges ahead. As such, politicians, citizens, and communities across Africa must take responsibility for ensuring that the polls are conducted successfully. Failure to do so will likely see deeper uncertainty and more intense violence. In some countries, the extent of the political and humanitarian disorder has already deferred the date of the expected ballots. In South Sudan , presidential polls originally due this year have been delayed until 2024. In neighbouring Sudan , no date has been set by the country’s military rulers for transitional elections that were scheduled for 2023. Libya’s rival factions have similarly yet to agree on dates for transitional elections stalled since 2021 but now planned to occur with international assistance sometime this year. In Gabon, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe , failure to designate clear dates so far for their presidential polls are almost assuredly part of the machinations of presidential incumbency. Presidential elections in the Mano River countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia, scheduled to occur respectively on 24 June and 10 October, will hopefully consolidate the political reconstruction of both countries in the aftermath of prolonged conflict. If successful, the contests should buffer both countries against possible contagion from the constitutional instability in neighbouring Guinea . The DR Congo challenge DR Congo and Nigeria – both of whom will vote during the year – are not just two of Africa’s most populous countries, they are also two of the most fragile. Of 20 armed conflicts worldwide mapped by the Global Conflict Barometer in 2021, three were in DR Congo and three in Nigeria. The complex humanitarian environments in both countries will present unique tests for elective democracy. The cyclical conflicts in DR Congo have collectively produced over 5.6 million IDPs – the single largest population of displaced people on the continent. More than 100 armed insurgent groups operate in the east of the country. The hope is that before the first round of presidential elections on 20 December , a concert of national authorities, regional partners and the UN can agree measures to diminish the extent of this multi-dimensional crisis, enabling peaceful voting in most parts of the country. However, the window of opportunity for this is narrow and closing. Nigeria ‘extremely volatile’ Kicking off Africa’s 2023 elections on 25 February, Nigeria has no such luxury. The vote to elect Nigeria’s next president will occur in the midst of the worst crisis of violence and armed conflict the country has experienced since the end of its civil war in 1970. The International Crisis Group reported in December 2022 that at least 10,000 Nigerians were killed in armed conflict and over 5,000 abducted from January to mid-December 2022. “Other data indicate that at least 550 of 774 local government areas saw incidents of armed conflict between January and mid-December,” the group noted. Some armed groups have targeted electoral infrastructure. In December 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission reported attacks on at least 53 of its offices across the country – and that violence is ongoing. In parts of Nigeria, some insurgents have ordered entire settlements not to vote. Alice Nderitu, the UN’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide, has described the situation in Nigeria as “ extremely volatile ”, and warned that the polls could “trigger violence and even atrocity crimes”. Nigeria also has over 3.2 million IDPs – less on the continent than only DR Congo and Ethiopia. Arrangements for registering them and issuing them with voter cards have been far fr om satisfactory , making it all but certain that a significant proportion will be unable to vote. A fuel and currency crisis The lacklustre response of the Nigerian government to this landscape of humanitarian disaster has been complicated by self-inflicted fiscal and monetary emergencies. Overburdened by a growing debt-overhang, the outgoing government of President Muhammadu Buhari decided last year to deregulate petroleum prices . At the same time, it launched a currency reform programme , taking the pre-existing notes out of circulation with effect from the end of January 2023. The resulting scarcity of both petrol and cash – on the eve of the elections – has threatened to tip the country into mass protest . Any ballot organised under such trying circumstances will almost certainly suffer serious legitimacy deficits . It is possible that Nigeria can overcome these challenges and organise a credible election. But a more likely outcome is that the country muddles through with polls that produce an unsatisfactory verdict, which then gets kicked to the judges to invent a judicial fudge of electoral legitimacy for a deeply flawed process – as has happened before . The world needs Nigeria and DR Congo in particular to organise plausible elections, and to equip whoever emerges as the winner with enough political capital to take the weighty decisions that await them. A way forward? Despite the challenges these humanitarian crises across the continent present, all is not lost. Early action to safeguard the electoral process could help mitigate some of the concerns around poll legitimacy. Here are some suggestions: First, election management bodies can be much clearer in acknowledging the many challenges they confront, as well as their own constraints – both in means and skills. This is necessary in order to manage public expectations, but also to develop civic partnerships. Second, it is not too late for the election authorities to address the reality that the public perceives them mostly as lacking in the essential attributes of independence and impartiality. Those perceptions can stoke violence, sustaining the idea that elections are performative rituals that do not offer a real choice. Third, the security services deployed to protect elections must be equipped with clear rules of engagement, with mechanisms in place for citizens to find effective redress in cases of abuse. In most countries, such rules are largely unknown. Fourth, a proper partnership is needed between the political parties, civic organisations, communities, government, and regional and international partners to address hate speech and ensure effective accountability for both election-related violence and its drivers. In Africa’s forthcoming elections, effective monitoring of abuses will be key. In the worst of cases, the attention of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court may be required to add some teeth to those measures. Ultimately, without credibility, these elections will only see a further deterioration of the legitimacy of the state. This will do nothing to help turn the corner on addressing current and future humanitarian emergencies. Source: The New Humanitarian
Africa’s 2023 Elections – Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Article by Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook 31 January , 2023 Despite serious challenges, Africa's youthful electorates vie to have their voices heard so as to shape a more democratic, stable, and prosperous future. Spanning West, Central, and Southern Africa, the seven elections in Africa this year comprise some of the most populous countries on the continent. This includes Nigeria, which kicks off the electoral calendar in February, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with elections slated for late December. Collectively, the countries selecting national leaders in 2023 represent roughly a third of the continent’s population. In five of the elections (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe), incumbents are seeking a second term. There is only one open seat, in Nigeria, as President Muhammadu Buhari steps down after his constitutionally mandated second term. There is a broad spectrum of trajectories in which these elections may lead. Some provide crucial opportunities for consolidating democratic progress. Others face uneven electoral playing fields and must overcome institutional legacies of one-party rule. In every case, there are illustrations of democratic resiliency. This is seen in the actions of civil servants, judges, political parties, citizen groups, security professionals, and journalists—who, often at great risk, collectively aspire to strengthen and uphold norms of civic discourse, popular participation, and fairness. This is particularly evident in the dynamic role that youth are playing in many of these elections—a reminder that 70 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 30. Given the central role that governance plays in security in Africa, the stakes from these elections are high—not just for democracy but for stability and development. Since governance norms, insecurity, and economic dynamism are rarely contained by borders, the conduct and outcomes from each of these elections will also have implications for their neighbors and the continent overall. Here are some of the key issues to watch.
Presidential and Legislative, February 25 The electoral context in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy is characterized by juxtaposing forces of deteriorating security alongside substantive efforts to maintain the trajectory of electoral reforms that Nigeria has realized for every election since its reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1999. The security environment is typified by a diverse array of challenges ranging from militant Islamist groups continuing their destabilizing attacks in the northeast to the widespread criminal banditry and violence in the northwest, farmer-herder violence in the Middle Belt, separatist agitation in the south, persistent attacks on the country’s oil infrastructure, maritime insecurity, and police violence. Estimates are that 10,000 Nigerians died from violent attacks in 2022 and another 5,000 were abducted. Daily incidents of highway robberies and kidnappings for ransom are contributing to a growing sense of lawlessness to the point that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned that insecurity could cause a postponement in the election. “The race is competitive and the outcome unpredictable—a further indication of Nigeria’s democratic progress.” Parallel to the heightened security concerns, notable electoral reforms are underway. The Electoral Act of 2022 allows electronic voting and transmission of election results that are expected to improve transparency and reduce opportunities for vote rigging. It also mandates the recording of ballots at Nigeria’s 176,000 polling stations prior to their transmission to Abuja. This electoral best practice, prominently displayed in Kenya’s 2022 presidential elections , allows real-time monitoring of electoral results by citizens and watchdog groups, increasing the integrity of the process. Based on the successes of off-cycle elections in Ekiti and Osun States in 2022, INEC Chairman, Dr. Mahmood Yakubu, has said that Nigeria’s 2023 elections will be the most transparent yet . Two establishment and two upstart candidates are vying to replace President Muhammadu Buhari. The 80-year-old Buhari is stepping down after his constitutionally limited second term, another notable but widely overlooked feature of the Nigerian elections given the recent propensity for term limit evasion on the continent. A former governor of Lagos State (South West region), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is the standard bearer for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Six-time candidate and second place finisher to Buhari in the 2019 election is Atiku Abubakar of the long-dominant People’s Democratic Party (PDP) who hails from Borno State in the North East region. Both Tinubu and Abubakar are in their seventies and represent a continuity in the established party structures. A novel development in the 2023 electoral cycle has been the emergence of two other serious challengers on the electoral landscape. A successful entrepreneur and former governor of Anambra State (South East region), Peter Obi, is the Labour Party’s presidential candidate. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a former Kano State (North West region) governor and senator as well as a former federal minister of defence, heads up the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). Nigerian parties have historically alternated putting forward candidates from the north and south of the country out of recognition of the country’s fragile and evenly balanced Muslim-Christian composition and ethnic diversity. The APC has followed this tack with Tinubu coming from the south, given Buhari’s northern roots. With Abubakar also originating from the north, the PDP is disregarding this norm. At the same time, Tinubu, a Muslim, has selected as his vice-presidential running mate former Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima, another Muslim. This breaks another norm of ensuring religious balance on the ticket. By contrast, Abubakar has selected Ifeanyi Okowa, a Christian and current Delta State Governor as his vice-presidential choice. It remains to be seen how much weight voters will give these traditions—or whether citizens believe that Nigeria’s democracy has matured enough that it need not maintain these ticket balancing principles. While the experience and vote mobilizing infrastructure of the established parties provide them an edge, the race is competitive and the outcome unpredictable—a further indication of Nigeria’s democratic progress. The established parties, APC and PDP, are also likely to have an advantage at the state-level elections in Nigeria’s highly decentralized federal system. All 109 Senate seats and 360 House of Representative seats are up for election. Meanwhile, half of all 36 State governors are stepping down this electoral cycle, portending potentially significant changes in leadership at all levels of the Nigerian government. Presidential candidates must win 50 percent of the national vote and at least 25 percent of the vote from at least 24 of Nigeria’s 36 States to secure victory. Should candidates fail to achieve a majority on the first round, the top two candidates will face off in a second round. Given the competitiveness of this year’s race, this is seen as a real possibility and would be a first for Nigeria. “Youth unemployment is more than 50 percent, and youth comprised 75 percent of the 9.4 million newly registered voters.” The electoral outcome may hinge on the mobilization of the youth vote. The median age in Nigeria is 18, and more than 40 percent of the 94 million registered voters are under the age of 35. Youth unemployment is more than 50 percent, and youth comprised 75 percent of the 9.4 million newly registered voters. Digitally savvy and building on their driving role in the #EndSARS police reform protests , Nigerian youth are highly motivated for this electoral cycle and indications are that they are most receptive to the calls, particularly by Peter Obi, for greater government responsiveness to citizen priorities and enhanced transparency. The Nigerian elections, in short, will be a test on multiple levels. First will be whether the electoral reforms that have been instituted contribute to an outcome that most Nigerians view as credible. Second will be whether the mechanisms of democratic self-correction—the opportunity to switch leaders and policies to adapt to shifting circumstances—will work sufficiently to identify and empower Nigeria’s new leader with the legitimacy and vision to enable one of Africa’s most vital countries to chart a new course forward to address the serious security and economic challenges it faces.
Presidential and Legislative, June 24 President Julius Maada Bio is seeking a second 5-year term in 2023. Despite a legacy of competitive elections and peaceful transfers of power, Sierra Leone enters this election season under the strain of heightened economic and political tensions. With a per capita income of $500 and roughly 60 percent of the population falling below the poverty line, this country of 8.6 million people has been particularly vulnerable to the economic shocks caused by the COVID pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Inflation has risen to 30 percent over the past year, while food prices have increased by 50 percent and fuel costs have doubled. This has caused enormous strains for the majority who have little buffer to meet their daily needs. Nearly three out of four Sierra Leoneans are food insecure . Finding it difficult to make ends meet, doctors and teachers have gone on strike for pay increases. Protests are relatively uncommon in Sierra Leone, and political protests require a police permit , which is rarely granted. Nevertheless, in August 2022, there were protests against the growing economic hardships triggering a brutal police crackdown, including the firing of live ammunition at protesters that resulted in 21 civilian and 6 police fatalities . Businesses, government buildings, and vehicles were charred across parts of eastern Freetown. Political tensions have been elevated since the 2018 legislative elections when Bio’s Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) party challenged 10 seats won by the opposition All People’s Congress (APC). In 2019, the High Court ruled in favor of the SLPP petition alleging electoral fraud. As a result, the contested seats automatically shifted to the runner-up SLPP candidates. This resulted in a flipping of the majority in the unicameral legislature to the SLPP by a 58 to 57 margin. APC supporters protested the court ruling outside the court and their party headquarters. Police subsequently laid siege to the party building, firing tear gas to break up the demonstration. “Critics are concerned that a proportional representation system will further concentrate power in the hands of party leaders.” A new wrinkle in the 2023 legislative elections is that they will be run under a proportional representation (PR) rather than the customary constituency-based first-past-the-post electoral system. The APC had challenged the legality of the change put forward by the SLPP, however, the Supreme Court ruled in January 2023, that the shift in voting system was constitutional. Critics are concerned that a PR system will further concentrate power in the hands of party leaders . This change, just 5 months before the election, will require parties to adjust their campaigns while introducing a new element of uncertainty. While it has reputation for fairly administering its duties despite financial limitations, the revised selection procedures will also require rapid adaptation by the National Election Commission. Bio came into office in 2018 after defeating Samura Kamara of the incumbent APC party with 52 percent in the second round of voting in a process deemed credible by international observers. Bio succeeded his term-limited predecessor President Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC. Koroma, in turn, was following the precedent of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of the SLPP, who stepped down in 2007 after his two terms in office. Sierra Leone, thus, has made commendable strides in building democratic institutions and maintaining stability since its devastating civil war from 1991-2002 in which 50,000 people were killed. A former brigadier general, Bio was briefly the head of a military junta prior to Kabbah’s taking office in 1996, beginning Sierra Leone’s democratic transition. Bio subsequently contested the 2012 presidential campaign, losing to Koroma. As a candidate, Bio railed against corruption, an endemic problem in Sierra Leone. Once in office, he consolidated all treasury accounts, reducing leakage of government spending while increasing revenues. He also launched the Anti-Corruption Commission, which has filed charges against several senior officials from the Koroma administration, further fueling political tensions between the parties. In 2021, Bio suspended and has tried to subsume the independence of the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) after it released findings of corruption and fraud under his administration in its annual government audit (as it had for the previous Koroma government). The respected Auditor-General of the ASSL, Lara Taylor-Pearce, is fighting the suspension in court, contending that Bio does not have the authority to interfere with the ASSL as it is an independent oversight body. During Bio’s tenure, the legislature has repealed the highly restrictive libel and sedition law creating more space for independent media. The law had been used to target journalists reporting on elections and corruption. The SLPP-led National Assembly has also repealed the death penalty. While the APC has yet to identify its standard bearer, the 2023 presidential elections are likely to be tightly contested. Bio has the advantages of incumbency. However, he will need to overcome stiff economic headwinds coupled with the opposition’s mobilization against his and the SLPP’s perceived overreach of political authorities.
Presidential and Legislative, July-August The Zimbabwean elections are shaping up to be the bloodiest on the continent this year as the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ramps up its use of violence and intimidation in the attempt to retain its 43-year grip on power. The latest cycle of violence against opposition candidates has, in fact, already begun. In June 2022, opposition activist Moreblessing Ali was abducted on the outskirts of Harare. Her dismembered body was later found in a well nearby. Witnesses identified a ZANU-PF activist as the assailant. Over a dozen opposition politicians who attended her funeral were arrested for “inciting violence.” Many remain incarcerated even though they have yet to be charged. “The deployment of political violence in Zimbabwe continues a decades long pattern.” This is but one illustration of the pattern of intimidation and suppression of political opposition, including arrests and extrajudicial killings, that Zimbabwe faces as it heads toward elections. ZANU-PF has held a stranglehold on the presidency since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Seven-term president/prime minister, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a 2017 coup by former army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga. ZANU-PF continuity was retained with the installation of former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa as President. Chiwenga defended the unconstitutional exercise by saying, “when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.” Mnangagwa was subsequently declared the victor of the widely criticized 2018 election with 50.8 percent of the vote. Chiwenga is now Vice-President. The deployment of political violence in Zimbabwe continues a decades long pattern —from the liberation movement days known as “Chimurenga.” It was marked by incidents such as the Matabeleland massacre in the 1980s, the mysterious killings of rival politicians inside and outside of ZANU-PF, and the multiple beatings longtime opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai suffered in the effort to unseat Mugabe. What is noteworthy in the 2023 cycle is how early the violence against the opposition has started. The faction now in control of the ZANU-PF is also increasingly dropping any pretense that violence is not part and parcel of the party campaign playbook. This may reflect the more central role the military has played in the party since the coup. While the ZANU-PF governing model has long been built around a politicized military , known as “securocrats,” this relationship has fostered fraught civil-military relations that pose a formidable obstacle to democratic progress. Today, security officials are routinely indoctrinated in ZANU-PF’s Chitepo School of Ideology . The increasingly harsh methods used against the opposition may also reflect lessons Mnangagwa learned as head of the Joint Operations Command under Mugabe, which the latter used to target political rivals with abductions, arrests, and killings. Mnangagwa has been under U.S. sanctions since 2003 for “contributing to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law.” With this climate of violence and intimidation, it is a given that the elections will not be free and fair. This perspective is reinforced by widely held perceptions that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is biased , with leading ZANU-PF family members serving as commissioners. ZEC’s reputation also suffers from the outsized role of the military, where 15 percent of ZEC staff are former service personnel , including the chief elections officer, who is a retired army major. Contrary to electoral best practice, ZEC has refused to publish an electronic copy of the electoral register to foster transparency. This pattern of institutional bias builds on a long history of election engineering in Zimbabwe including: limiting the number of polling stations in opposition strongholds, challenging the credentials of opposition candidates, and filing criminal charges against others—all with the aim of preventing them from standing for office. An illustration of the latter is the imprisonment of Fadzayi Mahere , a 36-year-old lawyer and opposition member of Parliament with half a million Twitter followers. She was charged with “communicating false statements prejudicial to the state.” Despite this lopsided electoral playing field, ZANU-PF may still lose. The antipathy many Zimbabweans hold toward the party is so strong that it will be difficult for ZANU-PF to credibly claim an electoral majority. Should the electoral results and public sentiment become so overwhelming, ZANU-PF may be forced to accept defeat. This was the choice faced by President Edgar Lungu in neighboring Zambia in 2021 and President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his handpicked successor in 2018. The repressive climate has contributed to a unified and resilient opposition under the banner of Nelson Chamisa and his Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party. After ZANU-PF appropriated the name and assets of the longtime leading opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, the newly organized CCC won 19 out of 28 parliamentary seats in by-elections held in 2022, including in Mnangagwa’s home district of Kwekwe Central. CCC also won a majority of local council seats it contested despite adversarial state media coverage and intimidation tactics by ZANU-PF. “Zimbabweans have seen a return of the hyperinflation of the 2000s. Inflation now stands at around 250 percent and is expected to escalate.” The CCC also offers hope for economic stabilization. With the government having abandoned the peg to the U.S. dollar (USD) in 2019 and the unregulated printing of currency to meet financial obligations, Zimbabweans have seen a return of the hyperinflation of the 2000s. Inflation now stands at around 250 percent and is expected to escalate. The value of the Zimbabwe dollar (ZWL) has sharply dropped. It now trades at 900 ZWL to 1 USD versus 200 to 1 in 2021. Nearly half of the population has fallen into poverty over the past decade. Rolling power outages regularly last for 20 hours per day. Unemployment stands at roughly 90 percent, and more than two-thirds of Zimbabweans earn their livelihoods from the informal sector. The prolonged economic crisis has caused an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans (out of a total population of 16 million) to flee the country, most to neighboring South Africa. This economic hardship is juxtaposed with the perception that ZANU-PF and security leaders benefit from sole-source contracts and exclusive mining access, while sheltering their assets from inflation via offshore accounts. Anjin, a Chinese diamond mining firm with close ties to the Zimbabwe military, has been invited back into the country after having been expelled in 2016 for having “looted” the country of $15 billion , according to then-President Mugabe. The opposition’s track record for monetary and fiscal probity is also fueling support. It was only when the then-opposition MDC gained control of the Ministry of Finance under an awkward power-sharing deal between 2009-2013 that the previous bout of hyperinflation was brought under control. Responsible monetary policy and greater transparency re-instilled confidence in the economy, precipitating an economic turnaround. Hopes for progress also rest on resilient democratic norms among the populace. Judges have regularly thrown out government charges against opposition politicians as lacking merit. While the track record of judicial independence is uneven, it has been sufficient to enable the opposition to take their grievances to the courts rather than resort to violence. Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF has tried to rein in the independence of the judiciary with constitutional amendments in 2021 that would allow the president to extend the terms of select senior judges as well as appoint judges instead of subjecting them to a public vetting process as has been the norm. However, Zimbabwe’s High Court has ruled these amendments unconstitutional . This is significant since Mnangagwa is seeking to extend the term of Chief Justice Luke Malaba, who had dismissed the opposition’s petition to annul the 2018 election for election rigging. Similarly, despite persistent intimidation , the media has maintained a degree of independent reporting. Journalists like award-winning Hopewell Chin’ono have been regularly arrested and imprisoned under harsh conditions for exposing government corruption. As in other African polities, the Zimbabwean election also represents a generational battle for the future of the country. An octogenarian, Mnangagwa represents the status quo of one-party rule, while 44-year-old Chamisa captures the democratic and reformist aspirations of millions of Zimbabwean youth. Roughly 62 percent of the Zimbabwean population is below 25 years of age. The election also pits the more urban and educated supporters of the opposition against the largely rural base of ZANU-PF who benefit from food and social welfare support in proportion to their party loyalty. The Zimbabwean election may also turn on the support of external actors. China has a longstanding relationship with ZANU-PF and is a major creditor, even though Zimbabwe has defaulted on some of its loans and refused to pay others. This relationship has afforded China privileged access to diamond and mining interests in Zimbabwe. Through its sponsorship of disinformation campaigns, Russia is also a candidate to help sustain ZANU-PF’s hold on power as a means of advancing Russian political and economic influence. While the deck is stacked high in favor of ZANU-PF, the legitimacy of the party and the securocrat state it governs rests on a house of cards—and therefore it persists in a perpetually fragile state.
Presidential and Legislative, August Following the script of an established 7-year ritual, Gabon’s 2023 presidential elections are expected to be a tightly controlled affair leading to the predictable outcome of President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s continuation in office. With the abolishment of term limits in 2003, Bongo is effectively president for life. It is a mantle he inherited in 2009 from his father, Omar Bongo Ondimba, who held the office for 42 years, reflecting the de facto hereditary dynasty of this oil-rich realm in the heart of the Congo Basin rainforest. Executive branch control over the institutions responsible for elections —the National Autonomous and Permanent Electoral Commission, the Interior Ministry, and the Constitutional Court—directly contributes to the predictability of electoral outcomes. The discretionary approach toward elections was evident in the repeatedly postponed National Assembly elections that were held in 2018 after originally being planned for 2016. “With the abolishment of term limits in 2003, Bongo is effectively president for life.” For an extra cushion of executive authority over the legislative branch, a constitutional amendment in 2020 authorized the president to appoint 15 members of the expanded 67 seat Senate—even though the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (GDP) already controlled 45 of the 52 seats in the upper chamber. Despite the executive control over the levers of electoral machinery, the government keeps a tight leash on the opposition. Permits for public gatherings are frequently denied and leaders are arrested. Sosthène Orphée Lendjedi Ibola, a 2023 presidential candidate for the Orientation Nouvelle (“New Orientation) party who had recently returned from 6 years of exile in North America, was arrested in November 2022 on charges of fomenting terrorism. Similarly, while convictions of government officials for corruption are rare, anticorruption campaigns are often used to target political opponents . Protests over the 2016 presidential election, which was widely seen as fraudulent , resulted in the raiding of the headquarters of the main opposition candidate and former African Union Commission Chairperson Jean Ping. Estimates are that more than 50 people were killed and hundreds more arrested. The episode is a reminder of the simmering discontent even in a seemingly stable, middle-income authoritarian country. While episodes of violent repression persist, the GDP appears to prefer using its leverage over the political system to disrupt the opposition. Toward this end, the GDP has successfully coopted several potential 2023 presidential rivals into the ruling party, leaving the opposition fragmented. Similarly, rather than arbitrary arrests, the state media regulator, the High Authority for Communication, regularly suspends journalists and outlets that are critical of the government or expose corruption, contributing to self-censorship. Corruption is a sensitive issue for the population of 2.3 million. Despite being Africa’s fourth largest oil exporter and a per capita income of $8,635, a third of the population faces poverty . Gabon ranks 124 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and the trendline has been declining for the past decade. Global investigative reporting that produced the Pandora Papers—a leak of almost 12 million financial documents of the world’s most rich and powerful— linked the Bongo family to opaque financial dealings . An investigation in France alleges BNP Paribas of money laundering in support of the Bongo family. Civil society organizations in Libreville subsequently filed a lawsuit in 2020 accusing the President’s 30-year-old son, Noureddine Bongo, of corruption , charges which were dismissed by the public prosecutor. “Despite being Africa’s fourth largest oil exporter and a per capita income of $8,635, a third of the population faces poverty.” One dimension of corruption that Gabon has been relatively effective at curtailing is illegal logging. With 85 percent of its land area covered in tropical rainforest, Gabon is a part of the Congo Basin often referred to as the world’s second green lung after the Amazon. As a result, environmental governance policies by Gabon have regional and international implications. Known as a “green superpower” for its pioneering conservation and sustainable logging policies , Gabon is one of the world’s few net absorbers of carbon, potentially holding lessons for other countries seeking to protect their carbon-rich and ecologically valuable land areas. While the 63-year-old Ali Bongo has largely recovered from a stroke he suffered in 2018, he has appointed Noureddine Bongo as his campaign manager. This is fueling speculation that the President is laying the groundwork for the perpetuation of the Bongo dynasty.
Presidential, October 10 Liberia’s 2023 elections are shaping up to be a major turning point for whether the country continues its progress toward democratic consolidation—and with it prospects for greater stability and economic opportunity—or slides back toward the exploitative governance model and impunity of previous decades. Liberians remain traumatized from the predatory governance practices of the military coup that brought Samuel Doe and subsequently Charles Taylor to power. It was their abuses of power that triggered and perpetuated the catastrophic civil wars from 1989 to 2003, resulting in the deaths of 250,000 people out of a population of 5 million. Recognizing the disastrous consequences of wantonly corrupt and unaccountable executive power, Liberians emerging from the war were determined to establish a system of checks and balances. This included an independent legislature and judiciary, as well as an autonomous National Elections Commission (NEC), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Central Bank, Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, and a small but professional military, among other bodies. Many of these institutions were launched and facilitated, if not consolidated, under the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. “[2018’s] peaceful transfer of power was a testament to the progress Liberia had made in building and upholding norms of limiting executive power.” Johnson-Sirleaf stepped down after her constitutionally limited second term in January 2018. The peaceful transfer of power to a democratically-elected successor from a rival political party was a testament to the progress Liberia had made in building and upholding norms of limiting executive power. Upon taking the mantle of the presidency, however, 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, George Weah, has seemed intent on undoing the very guardrails against the abuse of power that have been a centerpiece of Liberia’s recovery. In October 2020, four auditors probing the misappropriation of $25 million in Central Bank funds died under mysterious circumstances within days of one another. The government attributed the deaths to random accidents and suicide—accounts that most Liberians find unsatisfying. These deaths as well regular attacks by law enforcement officials on journalists , such as an incident where investigative journalist Zenu Koboi Miller was fatally beaten by Weah’s presidential bodyguards, send a chilling message to others attempting to report on or sustain norms of accountability. The Weah administration has quadrupled funding for “public order and safety” to $48 million, doubled the budget for the National Security Agency to $11 million, and allocated an addition $10 million for “civil defense.” Yet, none of these funds are subject to audit and, therefore, neither to assessment as to how they are contributing to security. The U.S. State Department and senior White House officials have repeatedly criticized the corruption and human rights record of the Weah administration, including violence against journalists and arbitrary killings by the police. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control levied sanctions on three senior officials of the Weah administration in August 2022, stating that, “Through their corruption these officials have undermined democracy in Liberia for their own personal benefit.” The World Bank and the ambassadors of nine governments have also called out the government for the misuse of donor funds. Meanwhile, warlords from the civil war era have become more visible within the Weah administration. Prince Johnson gave an early endorsement to Weah. Another, Augustine Nagbe, has claimed that he was setting up a private militia to protect Weah. Even Charles Taylor continues to command influence from his high-security prison cell in the United Kingdom, despite having been convicted of war crimes in the Hague. His ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, is Weah’s Vice President. She is also a leader of the National Patriotic Party, the political arm of Taylor’s armed front. An often overlooked legacy of the civil war is the large number of disadvantaged youth , some of whom are former child soldiers, who struggle with homelessness, violence, and drug addiction. Sometimes part of urban street gangs, these so-called “zogos” are linked to a growing problem of narcotics addiction and a rise in violence in the lead up to the election. In one incident in January 2022, 29 worshippers died in a stampede sparked by a gang of youth attempting a robbery. In response to growing economic hardships in a country where half the population lives below the poverty line, there are periodic protests in Monrovia. These have been driven by spikes in food and fuel prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Liberians also face diminished purchasing power as the Liberian dollar has steadily weakened. Meanwhile, Weah has been criticized for failing to disclose his assets (as required by law) or explain the source of funding for his construction of luxury apartments and acquisition of a private jet and yacht. Several credible opposition candidates have put forward their nominations to challenge Weah in the 2023 elections. These include Joseph Boakai, a former vice president in Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration, who challenged Weah in the 2018 elections. He is the standard bearer of the Unity Party. Alexander Cummings of the Alternative National Congress, Tiawan Gongloe of the Liberian People’s Party, and Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party have also thrown their hats into the ring. Opposition parties loosely coordinate under a unity coalition, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP). Collectively, the parties hold 13 seats in Liberia’s 30-seat Senate, compared to Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party’s 5 seats. However, jockeying over positions, especially which of the party leaders would be put forward as the CPP presidential candidate, has thus far prevented the CPP from offering a united front. Given Weah’s status as a national sports hero, a disjointed opposition may enable Weah to come away with an absolute majority in the first round of Liberia’s two-round electoral system. The degree to which the opposition can form a unified coalition, therefore, will be an important storyline to the election. “Beyond the personalities involved, the central issue to watch in Liberia’s 2023 elections will be how well the country’s nascent democratic institutions hold up against pressure to accommodate and reinstitute a strongman model of executive power.” Beyond the personalities involved, the central issue to watch in Liberia’s 2023 elections will be how well the country’s nascent democratic institutions hold up against pressure to accommodate and reinstitute a strongman model of executive power. One of the institutions most on the frontline is the NEC. In a referendum in December 2020, Weah had proposed eight amendments to the Constitution, including one shortening presidential terms from 6 years to 5 years. Fearing that Weah was using the amendment as a pretext for resetting the constitutional clock (thereby allowing him to hold office for two 6-year terms and then two 5-year terms), the public soundly defeated all eight resolutions. In so doing, they sent a clear signal that Liberians do not want to see a return of the imperial presidency of a bygone era. NEC’s independence was on display in the successfully executed referendum, a by-election the same month in which opposition parties took 11 of the 15 contested Senate seats, and a special by-election in Lofa County in January 2022 that saw Weah’s CDC party win a razor-thin contest. NEC Chairperson Davidetta Browne Lansanah has been widely applauded for her capacity and integrity. Nonetheless, she has been the target of criticism from the Weah administration including what appear to be politically-motivated allegations of corruption and money laundering, charges she has denied. Monitoring the ongoing independence of the NEC, therefore, will be a key election story to watch. The potential mobilization of security forces for domestic political ends also warrants attention. In the lead up to the 2020 by-elections, the Weah administration is alleged to have tried to create its own political party militia as a tool of intimidation. However, a commander of the police academy foiled the plan by refusing to accept the 150 party cadres sent to him for training. Liberia’s 2023 presidential election, in short, will be a test of the country’s still fragile democratic institutions.
Presidential, November The Madagascar 2023 presidential election is a reminder that democracy is far more than just holding elections. The relevance of this election cycle, therefore, can be best understood within the context of the country’s hollowed-out democratic institutions. The island nation’s 30 million citizens are handicapped with a political system that has concentrated power in the executive branch, overriding the checks and balances that enable a government to be responsive to the priorities of its citizens. This creates a perpetual disconnect between Madagascar’s political leaders and the momentous challenges the country faces— increasing and intensifying climate-related disasters , corruption, and poverty. “The Madagascar 2023 presidential election is a reminder that democracy is far more than just holding elections.” This disengagement is seen by Madagascar being ranked in the bottom quartile of Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index and its low annual per capita income levels ($442), which have declined over the past 15 years. Madagascar has a 75-percent poverty rate, with 40 percent of the population below the age of 14. Strengthening the mechanisms of popular participation, power sharing, and accountability enabled by institutions like an independent legislature, judiciary, and media will be the real priority of Madagascar’s democratic development, regardless of which candidate emerges victorious from this year’s election. Having won the second round of the presidential election in 2018, 48-year-old President Andry Rajoelina is vying for his second consecutive 5-year term in office. A former mayor of Antananarivo, Rajoelina first came to power in a military coup in 2009, displacing the democratically elected government of Marc Ravalomanana. Rajoelina stepped down in 2014 as part of a negotiated post-coup transition before running in 2018. Rajoelina will be competing against Ravalomanana and Hery Rajaonarimampianina, Madagascar’s President from 2014 to 2018. The two opposition figures are expected to form a united platform in the effort to improve their prospects of defeating Rajoelina. The extent to which they can mount a coordinated campaign will determine how seriously they can challenge the incumbent. “Strengthening the mechanisms of popular participation, power sharing, and accountability … will be the real priority of Madagascar’s democratic development.” Opposition parties start at a disadvantage in that they require permits to hold demonstrations , which the government rarely approves. Institutionally, such barriers to political party organization create further detachment between the public and their political representatives. Madagascar’s weak private sector means that government spending comprises a relatively significant share of the economy. Lacking adequate oversight mechanisms, political power becomes a means of personal self-enrichment. An estimated 90 percent of service contracts must be “validated” by the president and the prime minister. These dynamics create ongoing incentives for incumbents to stay in office. Politicians’ financial self-interests also contribute to the limited political will to strengthen mechanisms of accountability. While in office, Rajoelina was able to push through a constitutional amendment that reduced the number of Senate seats from 63 to 18. Six of these seats are appointed by the president. The others are selected by an electoral college rather than being popularly elected. This change represents a step backward in building a democratic connection between citizens and their leaders. It also weakens the ability of the legislature to act as a check on the executive. Since opposition members boycotted the Senate elections in protest of the move, the upper body is now nearly entirely dominated by Rajoelina’s alliance. Rajaonarimampianina’s party had controlled the majority previously. The concentration of power within the executive inhibits the independence of other theoretically impartial institutions. Members of Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), for example, are selected by the president. The executive also controls the electoral body’s budget , which is often underfunded. CENI’s independence and capacity, therefore, are constrained. The Independent Anti-Corruption Bureau (BIANCO) conducts infrequent corruption investigations and pursues few prosecutions to redress corruption. While BIANCO has identified 79 lawmakers who have accepted bribes, the agency has not pursued cases against them, fostering a culture of impunity. The executive branch also influences judicial decisions , and trial outcomes are frequently predetermined. This contributes to a lack of trust in the judicial system. The High Constitutional Court has demonstrated some independence from the executive in certain rulings, however. While Madagascar ostensibly has a free press, criminal libel laws lead to self-censorship. This is especially so with regard to investigative reporting on sensitive issues like corruption . Therefore, a key feedback loop by which the public is informed and can hold the government accountable is weakened. Madagascar’s security services (military, police, and gendarmerie) are subject to politicization, most visibly observed in the 2009 coup. Meanwhile, the security services provide limited protection to citizens from threats such as armed criminal groups or bandits (dahalo) operating in the south who target cattle and other household assets. “Russia was brazenly involved in trying to fix the outcome of the 2018 election through disinformation, paying journalists to write flattering stories, and hiring young people to attend rallies.” Madagascar’s weak governance oversight mechanisms and rich natural resources also make the country an attractive target for state capture by external actors. Russia was brazenly involved in trying to fix the outcome of the 2018 election through disinformation, paying journalists to write flattering stories, and hiring young people to attend rallies. Russia initially supported incumbent President Rajaonarimampianina’s bid for a second term. However, when this failed to gain traction, the Russians threw their support behind Rajoelina. Russia later struck a deal for a chromium operation of which it now has a 70-percent stake. Given the permissive environment and negligible reputational or financial costs, further Russian electoral interference can be expected in 2023. With it comes diminished popular sovereignty—as well as a further barrier to responsive government. With more than 80 percent of Madagascar’s flora and fauna being unique to the island, governance decisions in Madagascar have regional and international implications for global efforts to protect biodiversity and combat climate change. There is much to watch in Madagascar’s 2023 election. Yet, most of what is genuinely important lies beneath the surface of conventional electioneering—and will require sustained attention long after the election is over, regardless of the victor.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Presidential and Legislative, December 20 The elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) mark another important inflection point in this country’s long and elusive quest for democracy. To make progress, this country of more than 100 million people must overcome its deep-seated legacies of fraudulent, patronage-based, and opaque electoral practices institutionalized over the decades by the regimes of Mobutu Sese Seko and Laurent and Joseph Kabila. The incumbent, President Felix Tshisekedi, is seeking a second 5-year term. Son of the esteemed democracy champion, Etienne Tshisekedi, Felix Tshisekedi had an ignoble start to his presidency. In the view of many, he cut a power-sharing deal with the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, to be declared the victor of the December 2018 elections. Independent analysts, including the respected election monitoring group, the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), indicated that the genuine winner by a commanding margin was the leading opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu. Bowing to pressure from Kabila, the African Union and international democratic actors declined to demand a recount as called for by CENCO and many governments. A challenge of Tshisekedi’s first term, thus, has been to overcome weak legitimacy in the eyes of his compatriots. Once in office, Tshisekedi has been able to claw away some influence from Kabila’s entrenched grip on the institutions of power. This includes replacing the Kabila-backed speaker of the National Assembly as well as the influential prime minister. Tshisekedi has also made some progress on reforms. Perhaps most notable has been his reducing the repressiveness of the security services by replacing certain senior intelligence and internal security officials who had been sanctioned for human rights violations . Tshisekedi has also made headway in replacing some Kabila loyalists within senior ranks of the judiciary. This progress is noteworthy in that, upon stepping down, Kabila continued to exert great influence over the machinery of government in the DRC. Kabila’s Common Front for Congo (FCC) alliance controlled 350 of the 500 seats in the National Assembly as well as a majority of ministries, judicial appointments, and senior officials throughout the security sector. Many observers expected Tshisekedi to be little more than a front man for Kabila’s continued wielding of power behind the scenes. Tshisekedi was also a prominent defender of democratic norms on the continent during his 1-year tenure as African Union Chairman in 2021-2022. Nonetheless, in the process of winning over Kabila allies in government, democracy activists worry that Tshisekedi has adopted some of same tactics as his predecessor. This includes the reliance on patronage to direct the unwieldy bureaucracy of the Congolese state. Finance Minister Nicolas Kazadi noted, for example, that the budget for exceptional security expenses had increased tenfold , though with little transparency over how these resources were improving security given the country’s notoriously corrupt and abusive security sector . Tshisekedi and his family have been linked to opaque deals with Chinese businesses for access to artisanal copper, cobalt, and diamonds. Tshisekedi has also been criticized for not doing enough to rein in the mechanisms of state capture employed by Kabila. This includes a $6-billion infrastructure-for-resources swap with Chinese state-owned firms dubbed the “deal of the century” and the embezzlement of $3.7 billion in state funds by internationally sanctioned mining magnate, Dan Gertler, through Kabila-endorsed contracts. Tshisekedi controversially appointed close ally Denis Kadima as the new commissioner of the Independent National Election Commission (CENI) in 2021. Tshisekedi also modified the allocation of seats within CENI. While opposition parties and civil society are represented, critics feel the distribution still favors the ruling party. Many democracy advocates, moreover, are critical that the Tshisekedi-led National Assembly failed to pass an amendment that would require CENI to adopt electoral best practices such as announcing electoral results at each polling center. Tallying and reporting of aggregate results from a central location is less transparent and more prone to rigging. In Kenya, for example, results announced at polling stations are final and cannot be altered . Additionally, the DRC relies on candidates gaining a plurality of votes rather than an absolute majority, making it easier for a candidate to win by solely appealing to their base rather than building a more inclusive coalition. Tshisekedi faces credible opposition from numerous quarters. Most prominent among these is Martin Fayulu, the former ExxonMobil executive widely perceived to have won the 2018 election. Born in Kinshasa, Fayulu commands a broad following across the DRC’s highly diverse constituencies. Moïse Katumbi, a former governor from the southeastern region of Katanga, is another popular rival. He was seen as such a threat by Kabila that the former leader launched several gratuitous court cases against him, forcing Katumbi into exile. Former Kabila Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo Mapon is another prominent entrant to the presidential race. In 2018, there were nearly two dozen presidential contenders. The presence of so many candidates introduces considerable unpredictability given the DRC’s single-round plurality system. While the DRC’s electoral institutions and oversight mechanisms may be weak, the country has a vibrant and organized civil society committed to a democratic system of government. These groups continue to demand transparency and popular participation in elections and holding leaders accountable to citizen interests. Among the most prominent, CENCO deployed over 40,000 election monitors in 2018. Through the experience gained from multiple cycles of parallel vote counting processes, it is increasingly difficult for candidates to credibly claim outcomes that deviate significantly from independent tallies. “While the DRC’s electoral institutions and oversight mechanisms may be weak, the country has a vibrant and organized civil society committed to a democratic system of government.” Another wild card in the 2023 election is the ongoing instability in the east of the country. This is a multilayered conflict involving rivalries between Rwanda and Uganda, access to and trafficking of the DRC’s vast and unregulated mineral deposits, 140 local armed groups, ethnic rivalries, and legacies of previous conflicts in the Great Lakes region. Prospects of Chinese and Russian interests joining the competition for resources in the region adds another level of complexity. Perceptions that Tshisekedi may have made opaque deals for DRC’s resources also sets off a strong nationalist resentment that may have political consequences. The resurgence of the threat from the armed group M23 in late 2021 has heightened tensions among all parties and added to the displacement of more than 5.5 million people from Ituri, North and South Kivu, and Tanganyika Provinces. The deployment of the East African Standby Force at the end of 2022 has helped tamp down tensions, though this will need to be translated into longer-term mediated solutions. Ongoing instability may affect the ability of these eastern provinces to vote—an issue also faced in 2018. A full-blown regional conflict would clearly scramble the entire electoral process. Tshisekedi advisors have suggested that the elections may need to be delayed due to the unrest. This is fueling concerns that the instability in the east may be used as a pretext for Tshisekedi to prolong his tenure—harkening back to Kabila’s 2-year delay before holding elections after his second term had expired. The 2023 elections will say much about the trajectory of the Tshisekedi presidency. Will it hold to his stated democratic and reformist aspirations? Or will it fall into the well-worn governance norms in DRC—building exclusive patronage networks at the expense of public goods and services? With so many uncertainties, the DRC polls may be the most unpredictable on the continent in 2023. While the DRC does not have a strong track record of transparent and credible elections, this remains the aspiration of millions of Congolese citizens. Experience has also shown that civil society will not blithely accept a fabricated outcome. Much may once again come down to the courts—and how regional and international actors respond. Source: Africa Centre for Strategic Studies
Nigerian military, security agencies meet INEC, assure general elections will be rancour free
The National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President, Babagana Monguno, has assured Nigerians that the 2023 general elections would be conducted in an atmosphere devoid of rancour. Mr Monguno, a retired major general, gave the assurance on Tuesday during his meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and leadership of security agencies in the country. There have been fears and concerns that the scarcity of the new naira notes and fuel may disrupt the forthcoming polls. But Mr Monguno advised Nigerians to dispel any form of misinformation, fake news and fear on the conduct of 2023 general elections, saying the election would be conducted under a peaceful atmosphere. He said that the meeting was to look at certain issues that dominated both the political and economic spaces in the country in the last couple of weeks, leading to apprehensions, agitation, fear and uncertainty with regards to the general Elections. “We are all aware of the current situation in the country. There is a need for me to reassure citizens of this country that whatever fears, whatever agitations we have I would want to dispel such feelings. “The 2023 elections will go on in a climate devoid and bereft of rancour. The security agencies have done a lot in the last couple of months to put things in place ” he said. Mr Monguno said that the security agencies were sure of the measures they had put in place. “We are not in anyway in doubt what the situation of the country is but we need to let the entire country know that agents of bad news are peddling all kinds of stories around. “We see these on social media and hear things on many platforms. If these are intended to scare people, I want to dispel such illusions. “Everybody that is concerned in carrying out his legitimate undertaking, casting his or her vote will do so in a secured atmosphere. “It is very important that Nigerians are not pushed to the limit where they will abandon their number one responsibility as citizens. “I have confidence in the work of security agencies had been doing. “The Nigeria Police Force is a lead agency and has assured all of us repeatedly during our meeting and engagement and I know all the security agencies are up to the task.” Mr Monguno said that the remaining days to the election would be used to intensify efforts among security agencies for election security. On his part, the Chief of Defense Staff, Lucky Irabor, restated the commitment of the armed forces to work with the Police and other security agencies to ensure that INEC conducts the 2023 general elections without hitches. “I believe that this meeting today couldn’t have come at a better time to look at what we have done thus far. What gaps do exist and how we can close it,” Mr Irabor a general, said. The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Usman Baba, also assured members of the public that the police, in collaboration with other security agencies, are fully prepared for 2023 general elections. Mr Baba pledged that the security personnel would provide a level-playing ground for Nigerians to exercise their franchise. “We are aware of the situation in Nigeria in terms of crime and criminality, and in terms of the general situation, particularly in the South-east. “We are prepared to checkmate the activities of those who do not even want the election to take place and also provide a level-playing ground for those who are willing to exercise the franchise to do so,” Mr Baba said. In his remarks, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, welcomed the assurances from security agencies for the peaceful conduct of the 2023 general elections. Mr Yakubu said INEC looks forward to the comprehensive plan for the deployment of security personnel to their various duty posts. “This arrangement has been done in the past and has greatly facilitated rapid response to situations that may arise in the field either on Election Day or during the collation of results,” he said. Mr Yakubu said for INEC, its preparation for the election had gone far as most of the sensitive and non-sensitive materials were already in the various locations nationwide. “Training of all categories of ad hoc staff will soon take place and election technology has been tested, mock accreditation conducted and configuration underway. “The movement of personnel and materials has been worked out with the land and maritime transport unions. “Facilities destroyed in recent attacks have either been repaired already or are being repaired. Where the damage is extensive, alternative facilities have been secured while materials lost will be replaced,” Mr Yakubu said. He said that INEC had also engaged other critical national institutions such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with regard to the adequate supply of petroleum products and the arrangement to pay for critical services without any encumbrances. “We are glad that additional security has been deployed to our facilities nationwide. “We also note the increasing tempo of activities in many troubled spots nationwide. “We are confident that these actions will further reassure voters, our personnel, service providers and stakeholders of their safety during elections and of a free, fair and peaceful process,” Mr Yakubu said. Source: Premium Times
Burkina Faso: UN rights office calls for probe into coup-related deaths
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right (OHCHR), has called for an investigation into the deaths and injuries resulting from last week’s coup in Burkina Faso. UN Human Rights spokesperson Seif Magango made the call in a statement on Friday. According to him, staff are closely following the human rights situation in the West African country following the coup within a couple in which soldiers ousted Paul-Henri Damiba, who had himself seized power in a military takeover in January. “We welcome the military authorities’ statements that they will honour the country’s international commitments, including those related to the promotion and protection of human rights. “However, we remain concerned that multiple allegations of human rights violations continue to be reported from many parts of the country,” Magongo said. OHCHR urged the authorities to conduct “prompt, thorough and impartial investigations” into all deaths and injuries related to the 30 September coup, including those of at least four people killed, and eight others injured, in looting and demonstrations. Magango said the authorities should also ensure persons responsible are held to account. “We also call on the current authorities to unequivocally condemn all instances of hate speech and incitement to violence, wherever they may occur, and ensure that any culprits are held accountable in accordance with the law,” he added. The UN human rights office is also troubled by the dire security and humanitarian situation in the North-Central and Sahel regions of Burkina Faso, where civilians face daily threats of violence from non-State armed groups. According to the Magango, credible reports suggest that at least eight children died of malnutrition recently in Djibo town, which has been under siege since May. The last convoy that attempted to deliver humanitarian assistance on 26 September was attacked by armed groups, leaving 37 people dead, including ten civilians. The spokesperson also expressed OHCHR’s deep concern over the decision to arbitrarily suspend all political and civil society activities, saying it should be rescinded. Furthermore, although the authorities have pledged to deal decisively with the upsurge in violence, it deems to be terrorist-related. OHCHR cautioned that all military operations, including those against non-State armed groups, must fully comply with international human rights law and applicable international humanitarian law, while also ensuring civilians are protected. - Source: UN News
Rapport d’étape d’analyse des actes posés dans le cadre de la transition
Depuis l’arrivée du Comité National du Rassemblement pour le Développement (CNRD) au pouvoir le 05 septembre 2021, la République de Guinée est plongée dans un processus de refondation de l’État et d’un état de droit. Cette période transitoire constitue une opportunité pour poser les bases d’une gouvernance vertueuse, des institutions fortes ainsi que la cohésion sociale qui sont les conditions essentielles pour un développement durable du pays. Plus d'informations ici
Guinea-Bissau’s ‘attempted coup’: What you need to know
Who could be behind an attack in Guinea-Bissau and what are the implications in a region increasingly beset by coups? Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo has survived an attempted coup but says many members of the security forces were killed repelling an “attack on democracy”. Calm returned to the streets of the capital Bissau on Wednesday, a day after men armed with machine guns and assault rifles attacked the government palace. The violence in the West African country of 1.5 million comes after a recent spate of coups in the region. What happened? Embalo was in the government palace along with Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam when it was surrounded and attacked by heavily-armed men on Tuesday afternoon. Embalo said the gunfire lasted for five hours. “It wasn’t just a coup. It was an attempt to kill the president, the prime minister and all the cabinet,” he said. The state broadcaster said the shooting had damaged the government palace and that “invaders” had detained officials in the building. Military vehicles loaded with troops drove through the streets of the capital as people fled the area. Embalo said later on Tuesday that the situation had been brought under control, and that some of the people involved had been killed and arrested but did not give numbers. He described the coup attempt as an attack against democracy, saying it “was well-prepared and organised and could also be related to people involved in drug trafficking”, giving no further details. Who could be behind the attack? It is not yet clear. Some witnesses described the gunmen as members of the military, others said they were civilians. Embalo, who enjoyed strong military support during a previous political crisis, said the army was not involved in the attack. “I can assure you that no camp joined this attempted coup. It was isolated. It is linked to people we have fought against,” he said. But Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from Senegal, said military grievances “have been brewing for a long time”, with a lot of resentment directed towards the government. The country has long been beset by corruption and drug trafficking. Late last year, the chief of the armed forces said members of the military had been plotting a coup while the president was on a working trip to Brazil. Guinea-Bissau has suffered four military coups and more than a dozen attempted military takeovers since its independence from Portugal in 1974, with the most recent coup in 2012. Embalo, himself a former army general, was declared the winner of a December 2019 runoff vote, although the results were bitterly contested by his opponent, Domingos Simoes Pereira. What has reaction been to the attack? The 15-nation West African regional bloc ECOWAS called Tuesday’s violence a coup attempt and said it was following the situation in Bissau “with great concern”. The African Union called on the military to “return to their barracks without delay” and to release detained members of government. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the “terrible multiplication of coups” in the region, which he called “totally unacceptable”. Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa said on his official website he had spoken to Embalo by telephone and had “conveyed his vehement condemnation … of these attacks against the constitutional order of Guinea-Bissau”. What are the implications for the country and region? The attacks threaten to further destabilise the fragile country and could ramp up pressure on Embalo. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre told Al Jazeera the country remains beset by corruption, high unemployment, and low education, all of which is “building up frustration … Particularly where we have leadership that doesn’t speak the language and behave in a way that reflects the aspirations and hopes [of the youth],” he said. Tuesday’s attacks have also deepened fears that a recent wave of coups in the region is spreading. Since August 2020, soldiers have seized power in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Despite sanctions and suspensions on those countries by ECOWAS, none of the military rulers has yet organised new elections, and the attack in Guinea-Bissau will add to growing scrutiny over the credibility of the regional bloc. ECOWAS is set to meet on Thursday to discuss last week’s military takeover in Burkina Faso . SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES