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2021: African Elections, Presidents and Coups

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 15, 2021 07:33

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A disputed election and accusations of a coup attempt by a former President, repression of opposition candidates, a President bankrupting his economy to buy re-election – these are among the prospects for democracy in Africa in the coming year.

Presidential elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) last December did not bring about peace. Instead deposed ex-President Bozize’s supporters have marched in the capital in what has been called an attempt at a coup, and are engaged in pitched battles with the army, backed by Russian advisors, Rwandan troops and UN peacekeepers. There are calls for the African Union to request the UN Intervention Brigade to deploy in the CAR, thus moving from peace keeping to peace making.

Ugandan Presidential elections are over and as counting takes place amidst scenes of disorder and a ban on all social media. The campaign was marred with repeated claims of obstruction and intimidation against front-runner opposition candidate, musician Bobi Wine.

Ugandan Presidential candidate Boni Wine. Photo Mbowasport, Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 4.0

In the Republic of Congo, the ruling party has unsurprisingly endorsed incumbent Denis Sassou Nguesso, 76, as its candidate for the 2021 elections. Based on his 35 years experience as President, they believe that he will ensure stability and continuity.

Zambia is in an economic crunch. Having defaulted on Eurobond repayments in favour of opaque Chinese loans, the government has refused to embrace austerity as incumbent President Edgar Lungu cannot risk alienating voters ahead of August elections. Fuel subsidies are increased despite IMF calls for conservatism, and observers expect violence and manipulation of the political process to increase during the campaign.

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Lusaka, capital of Zambia. Photo Dr Groeger, Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

Presidential elections are also planned for Benin, Cape Verde, Chad, The Gambia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, South Sudan, and general/local government elections for Ethiopia and South Africa. Somali opposition parties are already questioning the fairness of the February polls, in South Sudan ethnic and personality clashes do not bode well for a fragile electoral system, and in Chad rebellion against a contested result is possible.

Benin’s incumbent Patrice Talon is said to have undermined key concepts of the developing democratic system and to have weakened the opposition through reform processes.

African rulers are prone to cementing themselves into office. President Museveni of Uganda, now 76, promised to retire to his cattle ranch at 56, but now seems set for a sixth consecutive term. All claims that stability and peace are the aim, but the inevitable result is stagnation, establishment of vested interests, weak economic growth, and repression of new ideas. Uganda has one of the largest percentages of young people in the world; most of whom had never seen a President other than Museveni or a government representing anyone but the old guard.

A bright future? Or more of the same? Kampala market scene. Photo US Treasury, public domain.

Surely the next generation deserves change?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 15, 2021 07:33

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Source: NYT
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