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Challenges 2013 – Risky elections

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afri2bOn 4 March 2013, Kenya will attract the attention of the whole continent for the presidential, parliamentary and local elections. The hope is to avoid a repetition of the 2007 scenario when post-election violence led to the killing of 1,300 people. The current Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, is the preferred candidate according to opinion polls, while the outgoing President and rival of 2007 is not allowed to campaign for a third mandate. In theory, the biometric census of the voters should avert fraud. But new violence erupted in November between Turkana and Samburu cattle herders armed with automatic rifles. The Kenyan army’s involvement in neighbouring Somalia could also spark violence. It has already incited jihadists to perpetrate a terrorist attack which killed nine people at a Nairobi bus station on 10 November last and the incident was followed by pogroms against ethnic Somali Kenyans. By contrast, local elections in the non-recognized state of Somaliland are expected to take place peacefully next May. 

Elsewhere in the region, uncertainty prevails on Djibouti’s capacity to organize parliamentary elections in a peaceful climate on 22 February after the humiliation inflicted by the guerrillas of the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy who, on 9 November 2012, attacked a residence of President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in the North of the country, to show the weakness of the Republican Guard protection.
afri2cIn the Horn of Africa, the focus once again will be on Somalia due to the difficulty of the new Somali government to bring peace and security to the country. The president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and the new prime minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, popularly known as Saaid, will face several challenges: leading the country’s transition towards democracy, confronting security challenges, fighting terrorism, sustaining peace and rebuilding the state’s institutions.
The big challenge for Ethiopia’s new leader, Hailemariam Desalegn, is how and when to start a process of replacing the old guard with, ‘a new generation of leaders’. It is difficult to say whether or not this complete withdrawal of the old guard will have taken place by 2015. This year will be crucial for Desalegn.
According to observers and analysts, the relationship between Khartoum and Juba will not return to normality unless security and oil issues are resolved. The outstanding issues of the Blue Nile and the South Kordofan areas, and also Abyei, must be resolved first and then the two sides can search for an agreement to restore pumping the south’s oil through Sudan to meet the demands of the two country’s peoples.

In Central Africa, the main question is whether the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will be able to stabilize after the M23 rebels, supported by Rwanda and Uganda, captured the city of Goma on 19 November last. In spite of the rebels’ withdrawal from the town and the opening of talks with the Kinshasa government in Kampalaafri2d on 7 December, several scenarios are possible. In case of a power-sharing agreement, Joseph Kabila risks becoming even more unpopular than he his. If there is no agreement, owing to the state of the Congolese army, a military victory of the M23 and the loss of more provinces
looks possible. A status quo or a collapse are other possible outcomes. The possibility of a military coup in Kinshasa launched by angry officers who feel betrayed by the government was also being mentioned by analysts. The DRC government’s survival is at stake. On 9 December 2012, at a summit in Dar es Salaam, the leaders of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) states agreed to send 4,000 troops from Tanzania and other states to Eastern Congo. This will constitute an international neutral force but details about its mandate and the date of its deployment are still to be sorted out and,
in any case, this cannot solve the problem of the weakness of the Congolese army. Besides, because of this crisis, which has meant additional budget expenditures without any result, the forthcoming provincial elections which were due on 25 February and the subsequent elections for the Senate on 5 June, will probably be postponed sine die. Moreover, there have been delays in adopting of the necessary reform of the National Independent Electoral Commission that is supposed to organize these elections. Parliamentary elections are also scheduled in three other countries of the region: Cameroon, Rwanda and Equatorial Guinea. Although not in identical proportions, the margin of manoeuvre left to political opposition in these countries is so narrow that no serious challenge should be posed to the ruling parties.

Two risky elections are scheduled in Southern Africa. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe wants to hold parliamentary elections in March 2013, after a constitutional referendum. People fear a remake of the 2008 electoral violence during the campaign between the Presidential party, the ZANU-PF, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement of Democratic Change (MDC). Obviously, Mugabe seems prepared to come up with another demagogic programme. In December, he said he wanted native blacks to have full control of foreign-owned mining firms operating in the country, sparking fears of deterring investment. In Madagascar, uncertainty prevails on the presidential election. The first round is scheduled for 8 May but tensions remain strong between supporters of the President of the Transition Authority Andry Rajoelina, and his rival former President Marc Ravalomanana, who has been living in exile in South Africa since 2009 and has not yet been able to come back home. Observers in Antananarivo suspect that a massive electoral fraud is being prepared. Although he is in fact already campaigning, Andry Rajoelina is not in too much of a hurry to hold the elections. According to Juvence Ramasy, a political
scientist of the Toamasina University, the elections could be postponed.

In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma, who was re-elected at the helm of the African National Congress at its 52nd national conference held from 16 to 20 December 2007, is likely to spend a lot of time campaigning in 2014 for the general elections of that year. But his task is not an easy one because of the protests of agricultural workers, miners and township inhabitants. All are disappointed by a regime which has used brutal force to clamp down on demonstrations expressing indignation against leaders considered to have betrayed the people’s cause. His main challenge will be to avert new social
explosions.

 

François Misser

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