Zambia – Opposition MPs Suspended

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As the leader of the opposition remains in jail the government suspends over forty opposition MPS. 

On June 12th the Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini suspended 48 United Party for National Development (UPND) MPs for 30 days. The MPs had boycotted President Edgar Lungu‘s address to the National Assembly.

They refused to attend address in March as they argued Mr Lungu was not the legitimate winner of the election in 2016.

“Let me inform you that your conduct of boycotting the President’s address as a way of protest was unjustified and unbefitting the conduct of an MP. The President is the Head of State and Government, and you took oaths of allegiance,” Matibini said.

As they were suspended the Times of Zambia reported that the UPND MPs were directed to immediately leave the House, described as a ‘walk of shame’ as Patriotic Front MPs burst into laughter.

This is the latest in recent targeting of opposition members. At the end of May imprisoned opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema returned to court facing charges of treason.

Hichilema and five others were arrested on April 11th following an incident in which the convoy he was travelling in refused to give way to the presidential motorcade. He is accused of endangering the President’s life, although his lawyers argue the charges are politically motivated.

Legal gymnastics have kept Hichilema in prison and he has been moved from one Magistrate to another. Betty Malupenga is the third magistrate handling the case, reported Zambia Reports.

UPND_campaign_rallyUPND Campaign Rally 2016 – CC

Since losing elections in January 2015 Hichilema had, according to Zambia Reports, endeavoured to ‘carry himself like a man with official state power’. He repeatedly picked fights with President Lungu and other government members, labelled the judiciary corrupt and scolded the police as incompetent. Although commentators say that this is his right as a political person.

Speaker Matibini warned Hichilema and other leaders of political parties and the general public, that their comments relating to matters of the House should be made within the confines of the law. He said if they continued to do so, they risked being liable to be prosecuted, reported the Times of Zambia.

The Zambian government has also faced criticism from the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops over the handling of the case against Hichilema, who warned that country is slipping towards ‘dictatorship’, reported BBC News

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ZAMBIA: Hakainde Hichilema Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21396C–21397A

ZAMBIA: Re-Election Bid?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21287C–21288C

ZAMBIA: Information Minister Dismissed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21209C–21210A

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Gambia – A Turning Point

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Longtime ruler initially concedes and then backtracks on acceptance of historic election result. 

The results of the recent election on December 1st saw 22-year leader Yahya Jammeh ousted and debates surrounding his prosecution have become central topics of discussion. His regime has been accused of arresting many activists, journalists and opposition members.

President-elect Adama Barrow, who heads a coalition of parties, told Al Jazeera that a truth and reconciliation commission would be established to look at human rights abuses committed during Jammeh’s rule, after which the government will file a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC). “It is a matter of justice. People should not fear. The process will be fair and will not pinpoint anyone,” he said.

The new President-Elect, however, is understandably cautious, as the country now faces a two-month transition period and rumours have abounded that Jammeh could try to force a coup in an act of self-preservation. The heads of the army and police services, however, have declared their support for the new coalition.

Jammeh is reportedly currently hiding in his villa in his hometown of Kanilai. His paramilitary hit squad known as the ‘Junglers’ is also based near Kanilai – the group is thought to be responsible for a number of high profile killings, such as of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara in 2004.

The incoming coalition has stated that it intends to compensate Gambians for their loss of lands, according to the leader of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Omar Jallow, part of the new coalition. Political prisoners were also released, with around 31 so far released from Mile 2 Central Prison near Banjul.

Among the first group freed was Ousainou Darboe, the 68-year-old leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), who founded the opposition party in 1996 and is often described as “the Mandela of the Gambia” for his two decades of struggle against Jammeh.

Another legacy of Jammeh’s rule has been divisions among ethnic groups, particularly between the Jola tribe and the Mandinka, Fulani and Wolof. Jammeh held fears that he would be toppled by the majority Mandinka, which make up around 33% of the population, and he resorted to appointing his own chiefs, reported Al Jazeera.

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh

Gamcel sponsored poster promoting Jammeh – CC

Barrow told RFI in an exclusive interview that what was needed was “an overhaul of basically everything in the government.” According to Deutschewelle Barrow has also stated that he intends to keep Gambia in the controversial ICC. Barrow is a real estate CEO and a newcomer to the political scene, selected by a coalition of seven opposition parties.

Barrow won 54.54% while Jammeh took 36.66% of the vote. However, after the initial optimism, anxiety returned as Jammeh decided in a TV interview on December 9th, to annul the poll result citing ‘irregularities’, just over a week after conceding to the coalition.

“I accepted the results then, believing that what was presented was the will of you the Gambian people… I made it clear that I will never cheat in anything… in the same way also, I will never accept being cheated by anyone,” Jammeh said.

Jammeh, in the interview, call for a re-run, recommending new transparent elections mediated by an independent electoral commission. Meanwhile the head of the coalition team Mai Ahmed Fatty said, “We are working round the clock to restore sanity. The world is with us.”

The US State Department dismissed the reversal of President Jammeh’s concession speech as “null and void,” while urging the military and other national institutions to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, reported the East African.

Jammeh had declared the country an Islamic Republic in 2015, has been accused of a string of rights abuses, and had said that with the ‘will of God’ he could rule for a billion years, reported Deutschewelle.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

THE GAMBIA: Interior Minister Replaced
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21136C–21137A

THE GAMBIA: Darboe Jailed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21071A–21071C

THE GAMBIA: Dozens More Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 5, Pp. 21005C–21006B

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DR Congo – Protest Crackdown

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A number of civilians are killed during protests against the failure of the President to schedule elections.

There has been growing local and international pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down in December this year at the end of his second term, the constitutionally defined limit to rule. Protestors have taken to the streets of the capital Kinshasa in dismay over his apparent aim to extend his hold on power and failure to schedule elections.

According to Georges Kapiamba, Director of the local NGO, Congolese Association for Access to Justice, the protests also took place in Goma, Bukavu and Beni regions. According to a Deutschewelle correspondent, the offices of President Kabila’s party as well as offices of other political parties allied to the president were burnt down.

European nations and the United States (US) have considered imposing sanctions, with a senior member of the US State Department stating that sanctions would be considered against any individual who worked to undermine the democratic institutions and elections process.

Phil Clark, a political scientist at SOAS University of London, commented that “It is looking increasingly unlikely that a new leader will take control of the Democratic Republic of Congo…all of Kabila’s moves over the past few months have suggested that he is doing everything he can to remain in power…there is a real concern in the Congo that this situation could continue to get drastically out of hand.”

Kabila took power in the DR Congo in 2001 after his father, Laurent Kabila, was killed by one of his bodyguards. The country has not seen a peaceful transfer of power since the Belgian colonial handover in 1960, reported Deutschewelle.

031106-D-2987S-019 President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo meets with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon on Nov. 6, 2003. The two leaders are meeting to discuss defense issues of mutual interest. DoD photograph by Helene C. Stikkel. (Released)

President Joseph Kabila – CC

Amnesty International has released a report titled ‘Dismantling dissent: DRC’s repression of expression amidst electoral delays‘, documenting the lengths that President Kabila is going to to keep himself in power.

“The government is violating the rights of opposition politicians and pro-democracy activists to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly while expelling foreign researchers and threatening human rights organisations that are working to monitor these violations with closure,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for east Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, Sarah Jackson, said in a statement.

“The DR Congo government is riding roughshod over its regional and international human rights obligations. Denying people the right to freedom of expression could trigger violence in an already tense political climate,” Jackson stated, reported News24Wire.

Similarly Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released evidence documenting the crackdown on activists over the last two years. Government repression spiked in the days leading up to planned protests on September 19th. On September 16th, police in the southeastern city of Lubumbashi fired teargas and live bullets to disperse opposition party members.

On September 17th, security services arrested human rights activist, Patrick Pindu, after he participated in a civil society meeting. He was released the next day on the condition that he report to the intelligence agency every 15 days. At least 14 civilians and three police officers have been killed in the protests in recent days.

Rights groups have urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate rights abuses and for international powers to impose sanctions. According to local sources, much of the repression is being orchestrated by the Intelligence Agency Director, Kalev Mutond.

Many view the government’s efforts at ‘national dialogue’ as a ploy to delay elections and prolong Kabila’s stay in power, and most of the main opposition parties have not participated in the process, reported CAJNews.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

DR CONGO: Opposition Rally
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.8, Pp.21105C–21107A

DR CONGO: Increased Magnitude of Violence
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 8, Pp.21109B–21110B

DR CONGO: National Dialogue Group
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21066B–21067A

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Gabon – Election Tension

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Opposition leader declares his victory before the official announcement, leading to concerns there will be a political standoff.

As the results of the recent election are to be announced in the coming days, opposition leader Jean Ping has claimed an ‘unofficial’ victory, stating “I am waiting for the President to call and congratulate me.” However the government dismissed the claims as “illegal.”

The law in Gabon states that no candidate can declare the result before the official announcement, but Ping stated that he was seeking to stop President Ali Bongo from cheating. One law student from Libreville said, “We don’t know if the opposition will accept the results if they don’t go in favour of Jean Ping and we also don’t think the presidential camp or the militants of Ali Bongo will accept the results if they don’t go in favour of the president,” reported RFI.

The head of the Pan-African Democracy Observatory, an NGO based in Togo, downplayed the significance of Ping’s declaration. “We should not be surprised if one or the other declare victory. It’s all part of the game,” Djovi Gally said.

Until recently, Bongo was the favourite but protracted talks led all the key challengers to pull out and support Ping. Ping has met with French and US ambassadors stating that it is only him that can bring about meaningful change in Gabon.

However he has not escaped allegations of corruption; Ping was a former ally of Ali Bongo’s father Omar Bongo, who ruled the country for 42 years until his death in 2009. Omar Bongo got Ping a job as African Union Commission (AUC) Chairman.

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President Ali Bongo with French counterpart Francois Hollande – CC 2016.

Ping also has close familial ties with the Bongo dynasty, he was formerly married to Omar Bongo’s eldest daughter, Pascaline Bongo, with whom he had two children, reported RFI. However in 2014 Ping told French newspaper Le Monde that Gabon had turned into a dictatorship at the hands of a single family.

According to African Arguments, Gabon’s political system can be identified as what political scientists call “competitive authoritarianism”; formal democratic institutions exist but the rules are tailored to such an extent that is almost impossible for the opposition to win elections.

There are no presidential term limits and the first-past-the-post system means that the victor would not need an absolute majority. In the 2009 election Ali Bongo obtained just 42% of the vote. Similarly the Ministry of the Interior and the Electoral Commission, responsible for supervising the elections, are not fully independent.

The situation is concerning; according to the US-based NGO National Endowment for Democracy, “Côte d’Ivoire was plunged into post-electoral crisis in 2010, when Alassane Outtara and Laurent Gbagbo both declared themselves winner.” In the clashes that followed Bongo’s 2009 victory, several people were killed, buildings were looted, reported Al-Jazeera.

Aside from the political problems, whoever is declared the victory will have to deal with serious economic problems. According to the World Bank, Gabon has a population of 1.7m and has one of the highest per capita incomes due to oil wealth. However the revenues largely end up in the pockets of the political elites, and as oil prices flounder, the country, and particularly the poorest, will be put under increasing economic strain, reported Deutschewelle.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

GABON: Bongo To Stand
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21068B–21068C

GABON: Election Date
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue. 6, Pp. 21032A–21032B

GABON: Candidate Harassment?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.5, Pp. 20997B–20997C

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Somalia – Upcoming Elections

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The government moves towards party politics in a bid to put an end to clan factionalism. 

According to a recent forum of regional and national leaders, members of Somalia’s new parliament must join a political party within two years or step down, as the country seeks to move away from clan-based politics, which has largely fuelled more than two decades of conflict in the country.

Elections for a new President will be held in October 2016 when 275 members of the lower house of parliament will also be chosen by around 14,000 people, in turn will be chosen by elders from major clans. While only a small part of the total 11 million people in the country, in 2012 the parliament was chosen by just 135 elders.

“The leaders of the National Leadership Forum agreed to promote the establishment and registration of political parties within two years, starting from the date when the 10th parliament is elected,” the forum said after a week-long meeting.

Many diplomats have been pushing for the elections are recurrent delays; the term of the existing parliament ends on August 20th while the President’s term expires on September 9th, reported Reuters.

The country continues to face widespread security risks from the Al-Shabaab group; between August 10-13th Somali commandos and US Special Forces killed 30 Al-Shabaab militants in the Middle Juba region near to the Kenyan border. Among those killed were senior commanders including Abu Ubeida the Al-Shabaab leader in Southern Somalia, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Somalia was plunged into civil war in the early 1990s following the toppling of dictator Siad Barre and has not held elections for several decades.

Current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is standing for re-election alongside an as-yet-undetermined number of opponents, including Fadumo Dayib, a Finnish citizen who is aiming to become the first female leader in the country, reported Newsweek.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon emphasised, “the importance of Somalia’s 2016 electoral process being conducted in a transparent, credible and inclusive manner, and in a climate of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” reported the UN News Centre.

At the same time, amidst peace talks between the Somaliland, Puntland and a self declared Khaatumo administration in the Northern Sool region, an amnesty has been agreed for Somaliland politicians in the capital Mogadishu, reported Garowe Online. Politicians had previously been unable to travel from the autonomous regions to the capital.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Electoral Commission
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21069A–21069B

SOMALIA: Suicide Bombers Target AMISOM HQ
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21083A–21085A

SOMALIA: Elections Planned
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.6, Pp.21032B–21033A

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Uganda – Opposition Leader Accused of Treason

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As the President is inaugurated for a fifth term, the opposition stages a mock ceremony in protest.

Opposition leader Kizza Besigye has been under house arrest since the Presidential elections earlier in February, in which he had disputed the results that declared President Yoweri Museveni the winner.

Besigye was arrested in Kampala on May 11th after managing to escape house arrest, staging a mock ceremony where he was sworn in as President; Lawyer Erias Lukwago said that he was then taken by security forces to the town of Moroto, around 400km away.

Lukwago commented that Besigye had been denied any legal representation and was charged with treason on May 13th; he was remanded in custody for a later court appearance on May 25th, reported Al Jazeera.

Besigye has been a long-standing opponent of Museveni and has been frequently jailed, put under house arrest and accused of numerous crimes. He was Museveni’s doctor in the 1980s war that brought him to power but has since run against him in four elections.

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Besigye election campaign from 2011 – CC

Museveni has been in power for three decades and was sworn in for a fifth term on May 12th after winning the February election with 61% of the vote. During the ceremony he criticised the International Criminal Court (ICC) which prompted a walkout by US and European Union (EU) diplomats.

The EU had called the atmosphere during the elections “intimidating” as the government banned live coverage of the protests, and also stated that the electoral body lacked independence and transparency.

Reports suggested that Besigye had managed to escape from 24 hour surveillance to make a surprise appearance in Kampala. The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) announced the alternative inauguration.

 A video emerged showing Besigye’s “swearing-in ceremony“; Besigye is seen walking up to a podium and signing an “oath of allegiance.” Besigye adds in the video that despite providing “incontrovertible evidence” showing that he won the election with 52% of the vote, the election process was not constitutional, reported the Observer.

Outgoing FDC opposition leader Philip Wafula Oguttu said, “we are casting doubt both at home and abroad on the legitimacy of Museveni’s presidency…they will see that this matter will have to be settled politically, not in Parliament or in court.”

Following the Presidential inauguration on May 12th, the East African reported that attention has now shifted to constitutional reforms, and there have been suggestions that Museveni may remove the age limit to allow him to further extend his reign, after previously extending term limits to run in the February elections.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin today:

Uganda – Besigye House Arrest Lifted
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.4, Pp.20965A–20965B

UGANDA: Post-Election Fallout
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20928B–20929A

UGANDA: Museveni Wins Fifth Term
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.2, Pp. 20879A–20880C

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Sudan – Darfur Referendum

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Voting will determine whether Darfur’s states are to be unified or kept as separate entities, although many boycott proceedings.

On April 13th voting concluded in a three-day referendum to decide as to whether to keep the current state divisions or to unite the Darfur area into one semi-autonomous administration; the vote was said to involve around 1.4m citizens and more than 500 voting centres in 18 localities, although many opposition groups did not participate and accused the government of rigging.

The referendum had been condemned by the United States (US), claiming it would undermine the peace process. According to the US government, due to the ongoing conflict in Darfur, the insecurity would mean that many would be unable to participate in the vote.

According to the Sudan News Agency (SNA) around 2500 observers participated in overseeing the vote. Chairman of the National Group for Civil Society Organisations, Ibrahim Shaglawi, said that they provided logistical support across Darfur during the referendum, and affirmed the neutrality of all observers.

A united Darfur has long been the aim of the rebels fighting the Sudanese state but they have largely denounced this referendum as unfair. The referendum was initially supposed to take place in 2011 following the Doha Agreement, signed between the Sudanese government and rebel groups.

Map_of_Darfur_2011

However analysts have stated that the result is likely to favour the current five-state system, as this reportedly gives Khartoum greater control.

Since January there have been reports of heavy fighting in the Jebel Marra region, and according to some analysts, the government, by holding this referendum, just wants to show the rest of the world that nothing untoward is happening.

“You have this picture being painted that Darfur is coming together,” said Ahmed Soliman, a political analyst from the UK-based Chatham House, reported by RFI.

Akshaya Kumar, deputy United Nations (UN) Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said “there’s been reports of gender-based violence mass rapes…and on top of all that, you have a dire humanitarian crisis, millions who still live in camps, further displaced. And people who are now being displaced,” reported RFI.

Many local leaders and activists called for a boycott of the vote, calling for people to stay at home and not to recognise the results. In North Darfur, activist Zahra Abdelnaim said that “the government has already identified the outcome of the referendum in advance.”

Religious leader Sheikh Younis Matar described the referendum as “aiming to turn the ownership of the province over to new settlers bought from West Africa”. A development expert and consultant, El Walid Adam Musa Madibo said that it “aims to divide Darfur and legalise tribalism,” reported Radio Dabanga.

On April 13th, one man was arrested by the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) for drawing offensive caricatures mocking the lack of turnout in the voting process. On April the 12th two people were detained protesting in Khartoum, while on April 11th, three students were detained at El Fasher University, reported Radio Dabanga.

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Zam Zam IDP camp, Darfur CC 2007

In 1994 the Sudanese government decided to split Darfur into three states, fuelling unrest that eventually led to fighting, with many rebels from the Fur tribe, the largest tribe in the Darfur region, claiming that the split into states helped the central government enact greater control.

In 2003 the conflict in Darfur began when largely non-Arab tribes rose against the Arab-led government under current President Omar al-Bashir. According to the UN more than 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur, 4.4m need assistance and more than 2.5m have been displaced.

The two main rebel groups fighting in Darfur, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), have accused the government of rigging the vote to keep Darfur split into several states, reported Reuters.

Al-Bashir himself, continues to rule in Sudan despite an 2009 indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for charges of mass killing, rape and pillage against civilians in Darfur.

The vote is one step in a long and drawn out peace process that was originally negotiated in Doha; rebels have for many years requested more regional powers. However the recent upsurge in violence and widespread allegations of vote fraud, suggest that the peace process is a long way from being concluded.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin

SUDAN: Darfur Fighting Continues
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.20942C–20943B

SUDAN: Peace Talks End without Deal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.11, Pp.20797C–20798A

SUDAN: Further Attempts at Dialogue
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.52, Issue.10, Pp.20762A–20762B

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