Africa political forecast 2017

The year 2017 looks a challenging one, especially in Libya and the Sahel, in the DRC with an almost total uncertainty about the future and in Kenya with stormy elections in the agenda.

In North Africa, during the course of 2017, the European Union member states will be implementing plans adopted during the summit of the last 15 December to help Libya deport would-be migrants to the South. According the summit conclusions, initiatives will be taken to offer “assisted voluntary return opportunities” to migrants stranded in Libya. Simultaneously, the EU’s naval operation Sophia in the Mediterranean Sea, should “enhance support” for the Libyan coastguards to stop people from making the crossings to Italy. Meanwhile, the EU plans to expand the number or priority countries (Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Ethiopia, and Mali) which will benefit from more financial aid in return of stopping people from leaving for Europe.


The other focus will be Algeria where local and legislative elections are scheduled for May and November. The ruling National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Rally have been the first to announce their participation, hoping to safeguard their majority. According to local observers, provisions contained in the new election law, should leave no choice to the opposition but to participate in the 2017 elections, even if the President of the Islamist Movement of Society for Peace (MSP), Abderezak Makri believes that the Independent Higher Commission for Election Monitory will remain ” a manipulated body in the hands of the regime.”. Indeed, political parties wishing to participate in the post-2017 elections will be asked to provide evidence that they obtained 4% of votes in the previous election contest.The risk, in case of boycott, for the MSP or Socialist Forces Front and the Workers Party is to disappear from the political map for decades.
In West-Africa, according to Control Risks, macro-economic instability caused by low oil prices may be the main driver during 2017, especially in Nigeria where President Muhammadu Buhari has become increasingly unpopular. The British Risk consultancy also anticipates that militant activity in the Niger Delta is likely to continue at the same level as in 2016. In Mali and Burkina Faso, the intensification of the rivality between Al Qaida and the Islamic State could create new security challenges for both states to find an efficient response to terrorism in the region, accordingly.


Events in The Gambia are likely to retain the attention of all regional leaders. Indeed, by mid-December, the head of the Economic Community of West-African States (ECOWAS), Marcel de Souza, was not ruling out sending troops to the country after local security forces took over the headquarters of the electoral Commission on the 12 December 2016, in the wake of  outgoing president, Yaya Jammeh’s refusal to accept his loss in the recent election, against Adama Barrow, a former security guard. In such conditions, nobody knows whether the parliament elections scheduled for the net 12 April will take place as projected. The atmosphere is much more consensual in Senegal where the next parliament elections are scheduled for the next 2 July, as a result of an agreement between President Macky Sall and the opposition coalition ‘Mankoo Wattu Senegal’, led by Mamadou Diop ‘Decroix ‘.


In Liberia, where the outgoing President, Helen Sirleaf Johnson is completing his second and last mandate, the former star of the Milano AC and world player of the year 1995, Georges Weath who lost against her in 2005, will run again for the 10 October. Yet, the election might a serious challenge. Indeed, John Richardson, the ex-dictator Charles Taylor’s former security advisor, foresees that the 2017 elections might not be held. Elections are indeed to take place in a delicate context of a transition of security responsibilities from UNMIL which securing previous elections in 2005 and 2011 to the Liberian National Police. Yet, observer point out that there vast capacity gaps remain in the Police and Ministry of Justice and that the discipline of security forces will probably e put to the test  hen faced with demonstrations or riots in Monrovia. Despite Helen Johnson’s inability to run this time, women might play a role however. Indeed, out of the 12 persons who have announced their intention to run, there are two ladies: one Matt Vallah Cooper, a 45 year old businesswoman who plans to run as an independent candidate and the other is Taylor’s ex-spouse, 50 year old Senator Jewell Howard Taylor. Presidential and parliament elections are also scheduled in November in neighbouring Sierra Leone. President Ernest Bai Koroma’s successor could be the ex-United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s Director General, Kandey Yumkella unless the citizen prefer to cast their vote for Alie Kabba, a prominent Chicago resident or another candidate. Kabba has an image problem hower: he has but lots of trouble sine he has been accused of bigamy by his ex-wife Diana Konomayi, the current Minister of Local government.


In Eastern Africa, Somaliland which still has no international recognition should offer as in the past the example of pluralistic legislative and presidential elections at the end of March. Candidates of three parties are competing to replace President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo who will not be running for a second term. One is Col. Musa Bihi Abdi, the current chairman of the ruling Kulmiye party, a close ally of the outgoing President. He will be facing the chairman of the Parliament House of Representatives, Abdirahman  Mohamed Abdullahi, leader of the opposition Wadani party, which includes dissidents from the Kulmiye party and from the third party, which is also in the opposition, UCID, which has strong support in the diaspora. Yet, UCID’s chances to win the contest are reduced because it is torn apart by the dispute between its chairman, civil engineer Faysal Cali Warabe and the younger candidate Jamaal Cali Hussein who want both to be the party candidate for the next Presidential Elections.


But the vote of all dangers is going to happen in Kenya in August, with everyone hoping that ethnic divisions will not spark again an explosion of violence like in 2007 with a toll of more than 1,000 people dead and a shut down of the economy. Last May, violent protests over the perceived bias of the country’s independent elections commission provoked a new cycle of violence with a harsh crackdown by security services. President Uhuru Kenyatta will again face Raila Odinga, with a strong position since the International Criminal Court has dropped its charges against him Kenyatta and Vice President William Ruto for their alleged role in the 2007 violence. At the same time, this new situation means that the incumbent president might be more willing to agree to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that he loses the election,since he no longer has to worry about arrest.


In Southern Africa, the Central Committee of Angola’s ruling MPLA put an end on the last 2 December to the suspense about José Eduardo dos Santos’ succession. Next August, the MPLA list will be led by the current Defence Minister, General João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço. Since the party number one becomes automatically President of the Republic, the only question will be what will be the magnitude of MPLA’s projected victory. The outcome is important since the MPLA’s capacity to decide alone about constitutional changes will depend from its capacity to reach a two thirds majority at the National Assembly. There will be a lot of suspense about the new policy.
On paper, this 60 year old  general like dos Santos, a specialist of artillery and a fan of football and karate, who was graduated from a military school in USSR and obtained a master in history at the Lenine Academy in 1982, is a soviet product. Much of his career has been that of an apparatchik, as political commissar in the army, MPLA secretary general and eventually Vice-President of the National Assembly. His main challenge will be to relaunch the Angolan economy which may only grow by 1.5% in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund, almost a stagnation caused by the over-reliance on crude oil (95% of the country’s export earnings).
The return to peace is the main challenge in the other large Portuguese-speaking country, Mozambique. In December 2016, there have been still attacks from Renamo rebels against trains on the railway line between the coal mines of the Tete Province and the port of Beira and on the main roads of the  centre of the country, to protest against the ruling Frelimo’s refusal to allow the opposition to run six provinces of Central Mozambique. What is at stake is namely the capacity of the Brazilian and Indian mining giants, Vale and Jindal respectively to double the coal production and exports.


Central Africa and particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo look the most unpredictable area of the continent. President Joseph Kabila refused to step down at the end of his second term on the last 19 December 2016, on the pretext that conditions to held the presidential and legislative elections were not met. By end 2016, negotiations under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference were going on between his side and the opposition over the possibility to hold them in 2017, under a consensually-appointed transition government. Yet, Kabila’s appointed Independent National Electoral Commission claimed that it will not be possible to hold the presidential and parliament elections before April 2018. Civil society groups such as the Movements of citizens for the struggle for change LUCHA and Filimbi, disapprove such arrangements and claim that Kabila should be replaced by the President of the Senate, Léon Kengo as interim President.
These groups doubt that Kabila will go anyway because of the large network of businesses he has built with his relatives and which they do not want to hand over, including 120 gold, diamonds, copper and cobalt mining permits.

 François Misser



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