Africa is a continent on the move, with one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world but this year it will face a
number of serious political challenges
In the North of the continent, several elections could spark violence. That is the case in Tunisia where the salafists
might cause trouble during the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 23 June. They have indeed started
since mid-2012 to spoil the atmosphere, namely with attacks on police stations. Supporters of a secular state also feel
exasperated by the islamist-led government’s unwillingness to share the power. The situation is even more explosive in
Libya, where parliamentary elections should occur at some point during the year and in Egypt, where protests against the
“Pharaoh” Mohamed Morsi were spreading in December.
In West-Africa, everyone is looking at Mali. The focus is not so much on the presidential, parliament and local elections
in the government-held southern part of the country, which the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs,
Johnnie Carson, wants to be held in 2013. The focus is rather on the military intervention which is being planned to rid
the north of the country from the Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) salafists and their allies of the Movement for the
Unity of Jihad in West-Africa (Mujao), while the Touareg of the Azawad National Liberation Movement and Ansar Dine have
initiated talks with the Bamako government.
But there is no guarantee that the intervention will occur during the first quarter of 2013, as the chairman of the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Ivorian President, Alassane Ouattara, wishes. Indeed, the authors
of the last 22 March military coup want to wage war themselves, although their training, their organisation and their
equipment are not sufficient to give them a chance. In the view of Romano Prodi, UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for
Sahel, which reflects the opinion of most experts, it will not be possible to launch such an operation before September
2013. Indeed, according to French diplomatic sources, it will take six months for the 250 European Union instructors to
train four battalions or 2,600 troops of the Malian army and to prepare the 3,300 troops of ECOWAS and Chad for an
intervention of this kind. It also remains to be seen what the respective role of all these troops will be. Meanwhile,
Romano Prodi hopes some room will be left for negotiation.
It is a difficult challenge and day by day the situation is becoming more complicated. Nigerian jihadists from the Boko
Haram sect are beginning to rush to Mali. It also remains to be seen if optimistic predictions by Nigerian officials of an
eradication of Boko Haram which is terrorizing populations in Northern and Central Nigeria, namely the Christians, will
become reality in 2013. Indeed, some Muslim political leaders of the North have struck alliances with Boko Haram. And it is
not certain that the threat by the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to launch a trial against the
Boko Haram and AQIM leaders in Mali will deter these groups from carrying out their activities.
During 2013, elections are also scheduled towards March in Togo and in Guinea-Conakry at a date still to be set. The
challenges are to put an end to the autocratic rule of the Eyadema clan in Togo and to hold a free and fair election in
Guinea Conakry. In Mauritania, another Sahelian country targeted by the salafists, the elections of the National Assembly
and the Senate which were postponed in 2012, should take place in 2013 but the date must still be set. The stability of the
country is at stake, after the absence of President Mohamed Abdelaziz, who was shot “by mistake” by military on 13 October
last and received treatment in a French hospital until his return last 24 November. This return dashed the opposition’s hopes for a “consensual management of transition”.
In Côte d’Ivoire, where local elections are due on 24 February, the attention will focus on The Hague, with the announcement by the International Criminal Court of its intention to start prosecutions against the spouse of former President Laurent Gbagbo, Simone, for her alleged participation in crimes against humanity and war crimes. Laurent Gbagbo’s trial should start this year, after the court ruled in November that he was fit to stand trial.