Monday, June 13, 2011

Catching up

It's been about 3 months since I last posted a blog.  The original plan was to post every day so I'm clearly way behind.  I don't have a lot of time to post today but I'll make a plan to catch up over the past 3 months.

1. Nigeria's election was postponed a few days and, as expected, Goodluck Jonathan won handily.  I'll do a little recap of the election.

2. In Cote d'Ivoire, Gbagbo eventually gave up after troops supporting Ouattara (French and Ivoirien) marched through Abidjan and laid siege to the Presidential Palace where Gbagbo was holed up.  I'll do a quick recap of the transition and what's been happening since.

3.  The civil war in Libya continues.  I'll do an update.

4.  I'll also do an update on Tunisia, and ...

5. ... Egypt since they succesfully overthrew their authoritarian presidents.

6. I'll also do an update on what's been happening in South Sudan since they voted for independence.

7. South Africa had an election on May 19 - I'll do a quick bit on that

8.  Yayi Boni wins again in Benin, in presidential election (March) and legislative elections (May)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nigeria Presidential Election, 2011

OK, so a few hours I put up a post with a quick history of politics in Nigeria. A few words now about the current campaign.

Nigeria's presidential elections are scheduled for April 9, 2011.  I've had several people ask me my opinion about the election, but I hadn't been keeping up, so I did a little research and this is what I came up with:



The frontrunner seems to be Goodluck Jonathan, the current president and PDP candidate.  The PDP has held the presidency since democracy was reintroduced to Nigeria in 1999, although these each of these elections have been marred by violence and fraud. The PDP has a "gentleman's agreement" that the presidency will be rotated between the North and South.  Obasanjo, president for 1999-2007, is Yoruba, from the Southwest part of the country.  Obasanjo's vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, is a northerner (and former supporter of bad guy Sani Abacha, who imprisoned Obasanjo) that planned to succeed Obasanjo, but then clashed with him when Obasanjo tried to change the constitution for a third term.  So Obasanjo handpicked a different northerner to succeed him, and thanks to Obasanjo's support, Yar'Adua won, but then he got sick and died before he finished his term and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (he of the cool name and cool hat) became acting president in February 2010 (when Yar'Adua was sick) and president when Yar'Adua died in May 2010. Jonathan has a PhD in zoology, entered politics in 1998, and has never been elected to office. His parents chose his name Goodluck well because his rise is due in large part to being in the right place at the right time:
When the Bayelsa state governor was arrested on money-laundering charges in 2005, Mr Jonathan, then deputy governor, found himself at the helm. On February 10th (2010, as acting president while Yar'Adua was sick), chairing his first cabinet meeting, he had the confidence to reshuffle some of the ministers known to be allies of Mr Yar’Adua.
Jonathan is from the Southeast part of the country (and, given the brim on his hat, it goes without saying that he's not Muslim), so a Southerner got to be president before the Northerners got to finish their turn. So there was speculation when he took office that he would just keep the seat warm until the end of the term, and then let a Northerner candidate run for the PDP.  There was speculation that Babangida (IBB), a Northerner, would run on top of the PDP ticket and Jonathan would run as vice president, so that the rotation could be restored to order. Babangida was a military head of state from 1985-1993.  He allowed for democratic elections to take place in 1993, but then didn't allow the winner to take office.  In response to massive strikes and protests as a result, he then gave up office to an interim government that was soon after overthrown by bad guy Sani Abacha.

In September 2010, Jonathan announced on Facebook that he would run to be the PDP candidate for president. One of his themes is the promotion of rule of law and rooting out of corruption, but it's not clear how successful he has been in these efforts. "His current campaign is centred on providing good governance, power and energy, food, education, health, land and transport, unemployment, security and the Niger-delta."

In November 2010, Atiku Abubakar was proclaimed the consensus candidate for the North for the PDP ticket (he'd returned to the party after leaving in 2006) and a poll said that he was the frontrunner in the race. Abubakar was vice-president for 8 years under Obasanjo until they had a falling out in part because of Abubakar helped block Obasanjo's attempt to change the constitution so he could run for a third term. But Abubakar was soon accused of forging that poll. 

In January 2011, although Abubakar is the more experienced candidate, Jonathan won the PDP primary with 78% of the vote. Observers attribute this to incumbency advantages, such as the ability to steer a patronage network of gas and oil revenues. Jonathan also likely benefitted from his move "to back PDP state governors seeking a second term in April."

Other candidates
  

General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) (Congress for Progressive Change) A native of Katsina State (in the north), Muslim, born in 1942, Buhari was 7th head of state of Nigeria (1983 – 1985). Buhari was the candidate for another party (ANPP) in 2003 and 2007, but had a falling out with party leaders of that party, and joined the CPC in 2010. Buhari had a fairly successful anti-corruption program while he was head of state.  He and Nelson Mandela were the only private African individuals to be invited by the White House to attend Obama's inauguration. In 2003 he came in 2nd place, with 32% of the vote, and also came in 2nd place in 2007 but with fewer votes. His campaign promises are virtually indistinguishable from Jonathan's: "General Buhari’s current campaign is centred on providing good governance, economic recovery and infrastructure development, power and energy, agriculture, education, health, land and transport, women empowerment, security and the Niger-delta and unemployment." Buhari is probably frontrunner Jonathan's greatest challenge.


Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria).  The Action Congress candidate in 2007, Abubakar (see above), came in 3rd place in 2007. Action Congress also came in 3rd in legislative elections (after the PDP and ANPP).  According to some observers, PDP supporters are abandoning the PDP for the ACN because the ACN is the main alternative party. Ribadu is a former anti-corruption official (2003-2007) and has been a senior fellow at Oxford and at the Center for Global Development, which is a very well respected research organization - they are fantastic.  One of the first places I go for studies on aid, international development, etc. So I like this guy based on that association alone. He was very successful in his anti-corruption campaign, although some say it was a tool Obasanjo used against his political enemies.  "His campaign goals include the plan to invest in coal (utilizing existing national coal reserves), wind, solar and biomass as alternative means of power generation, create 30 million jobs, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 8% within 5 years and 10% in 10 years, and reduce fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP. " Similar to his competitors, "Nuhu Ribadu’s political campaign is premised on developing human capital and infrastructure, growing the economy, good governance, youth employment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, security, defence and the Niger Delta."

Chief Dele Momodu (National Conscience Party).  NCP presidential candidates were also-rans in 2003 and 2007.



Nigerian election next month

Several times over the past few weeks people have asked me what I think about the Nigerian election coming up, and I haven't been keeping up, so I will quickly get up to speed now.

Background

Under British colonial rule, Nigeria was divided into two or three regions (the Southern region was divided in 1939) - the North, mostly Muslim and Hausa, and in the South there was the West, mostly Yoruba (Christian and Muslim), and the East (mostly Igbo and Christian now, probably a higher share of animists back then). Historically the South was more educated than the North, but Northerners made up a good share of the military. At independence it was 3 provinces in a federal system, but the number has multiplied since, in part because oil revenues are shared by province so there's an incentive to have your own province.

In Nigeria's history, it's had a couple of short democratic spells (4-6 years each) followed by military coups in 1966 and 1983.  There were democratic elections held in 1993, but General Babangida didn't let the winner take office. Babangida was then pressured to hand power to an interim government, but before elections could be held General Abacha took power in November and dissolved all democratic institutions.

Abacha was a bad guy - he was in charge when I lived about 60 km west of Nigeria, in the wonderful town of N'Dali, Benin.  Even though I was so close, I was afraid to go into Nigeria - corruption was terrible, lots of violence, etc.  Security was so bad in the airport, the US wouldn't let direct flights go to and from Lagos. His government prosecuted and executed environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. When he died in 1998, he was replaced by General Abdulsalami Abubakar who pretty quickly released political prisoners and held elections.

One of the political prisoners he released was (former general) Olusegun Obasanjo, who had been head of state for 3 years (during which he introduced universal primary education) and in 1979 was the first military leader to hold elections and hand over power to a democratically elected government.  I remember reading pamphlets arguing for Obasanjo's release when I was in the Peace Corps in Benin.

Obasanjo won the election in 1999 and re-election in 2003 as the candidate for the People's Democratic Party with over 60% of the vote.  His vice-president was Atiku Abubakar (not sure if he's related to Abdulsalami), who had been a supporter of Abacha.  Abubakar wanted to be president after Obasanjo was term-limited out, but Obasanjo tried to get the constitution changed so he could run for a 3rd term.  That didn't work, but Abubakar left the PDP and joined the Action Congress party in 2006. Obasanjo picked Umaru Yar'Adua to be his successor instead, and Yar'Adua, thanks to Obasanjo's support, won the election as the PDP candidate in 2007.  When he died in 2010, the vice president, Goodluck Jonathan (gotta like that name, and gotta like his hat) took office.

So Goodluck Jonathan is now the PDP candidate for president for the elections coming up next month.

That's the background.  I need to go to a workshop thing now but I'll try to find some recent news or analysis about the election when I get a chance. 

Update on Cote d'Ivoire

Things are still bad in Cote d'Ivoire
Three months after Ouattara won the presidential election, (former) President Gbagbo refuses to give up the office. When I was in Abidjan in 1997, it felt like a little piece of Paris in the middle of Africa.  But now there are youth militias, pro-Gbagbo and pro-Outtara, fighting it out in Abidjan suburbs, with dozens of casualties. The police and army, pro-Ggagbo, are firing on peaceful protestors.

Latest in Libya

This map from the NY Times has a nice summary of the current state of affairs.  Qaddafi still controls Tripoli, where about 1 out of 6 Libyans lives (the city has a population of about 1 million, and the country has a population of about 6 million). Tripoli is on the western side of the country, not too far from Tunisia.  He also controls several other smaller cities in the neighborhood, particularly west of Tripoli, with the exception of Zawiyah, which is 25 miles west of Tripoli and has an oil refinery.  Qaddafi has a major attack right now against Zawiyah, trying to win it back from rebels.

Most of the country east of Tripoli is controlled by the rebels except for Surt, which is where Qaddafi's tribe is from. A few days ago the rebels took control of Ras Lanuf, another refinery town, but Qaddafi's troops are attacking there, too, trying to win it back. Most of the towns south-west of Tripoli are also held by the rebels.

The opposition does not want the West to send troops to overthrow Qaddafi; they want the overthrow to be purely the result of local actors.  Governments in Iraq and Afghanistan have compromised legitimacy because they were the result of US invasions.  The rebels are becoming more vocal, however, that they want the West to help out with a no-fly zone to protect them from air raids, etc.  But a no-fly zone would require the West to shoot down anti-aircraft installations in Tripoli, etc., which is a bit of a dicey business, especially if civilians get killed by accident.

Back from blogging hiatus

So it's been almost 2 months since my last post.  I haven't been keeping up with my plan to post something almost every day.  I am now recommitting myself!  Not to the insane asylum, but to trying to put something up every day.

And there has been a lot of news in the past two months, obviously.

In my last post I said that Mubarak and Qadaffi might want to worry, and that was indeed true - Mubarak has now stepped down and Qadaffi is in big trouble, but holding on.  I was somewhat right that Qadaffi was likely to hold on because of that country's dependence on oil - he has a freer hand to crack down on rebellious citizens because he doesn't rely much on local tax dollars to survive.  But the rebellious citizens are doing a good job of taking control of the oil fields and refineries and whatnot, and the international community is freezing his foreign assets where they can find them, so he eventually may run out of funds, but he obviously has a lot saved up and lots of arms and so on stored in and around Tripoli, so it will take a while before he feels those constraints.

I also said Egypt gets a lot of aid.  That's somewhat true - it's one of the main aid recipients from the US - but it doesn't actually get all that much aid given the size of its population and economy.  Plus aid is not as unconditional for dictators as it used to be - the US, the main source of Egyptian aid (accounting for about half), was pressuring Mubarak not to crack down on the protestors, as was the EU (accounting for about a third of aid - the rest comes from multilaterals and Arab sources).  So that money stream wasn't impervious to his actions against protestors.  And although Egypt does actually have a fair amount of its exports coming from fuel, it relies much more heavily on tourism, and tourists don't want to visit pyramids when nice democratic protestors are being shot.  On top of that the role of the military (which also has economic interests that would be harmed by a crackdown) made Mubarak much more constrained regarding potential responses.  So not entirely surprising that Mubarak stepped down faster than Qadaffi, but slower that President Ben Ali in Tunisia.

Below is a scatter plot I presented in a lecture.  These are countries with majority Muslim populations, arranged by income level (from around 2007) and mineral fuel as a share of manufacturing exports.  Generally the pattern in Muslim countries is that either they are poor, or most of their exports are oil and gas, or both.  So it is not surprising that few of these countries are democracies.  The exceptions are in Africa, places like Mali and Senegal, and Turkey (with income level around $6000 per capita, adjusting for living costs) and not in the Middle East or North Africa.

However, the richest Muslim country that does not rely on fuel exports is Tunisia - somewhere in the $8000 per capita range, after adjusting for local living expenses.  About half of the other countries in the world with similar income levels are democracies (e.g., Dominican Republic, Jamaica) although those countries do have their problems (gang violence, drug trafficking, etc.).  Thailand also has a similar income level, and after a pretty good run of democracy became one of the highest income democracies ever to revert to dictatorship.  Apart from Cuba, the countries with income levels similar to Tunisia that are pretty stable dictatorships rely heavily on oil (Iran, Gabon).  So, based on two economic factors that tend to be consistent predictors of democratic transition and survival, Tunisia was the best candidate among Muslim countries.

Egypt is a less likely candidate for democracy than Tunisia, with lower income and more fuel exports.  So we'll see what happens there.  I'm fairly optimistic that the military will eventually allow for democratic elections, but they will continue to be a power behind the scenes, perhaps as they traditionally have been in Turkey.  They might even arrange to have their role in the political system formalized in a new more democratic constitution.

Other potential candidates, based on the above, are Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, with high income levels and increasingly diversified economies.  But these countries are obviously ruled by monarchs.  I think it is in the realm of possibility that the king of Bahrain will allow for his parliament to have more real popular representation and power (I think currently half the parliament is elected and half is appointed, something like that), and allow a new constitution in which he chooses the formateur - a prime minister that then must be able to win majority support in the parliament.  A Glorious Revolution in the Gulf, if you will.  I'm not predicting it but I think it's possible - his position isn't as stable as some of his neighbors, given diminishing oil reserves and a majority Shiite population, and the US with its military base there might be able to encourage some type of compromise.

OK, that's enough about the Middle East, which I'm not claiming to be an expert on.  I should read up and post on Nigeria, which has elections coming up in early April, and do an update on Cote d'Ivoire, where Gbagbo still hasn't given up power and has probably benefitted from the world's attention being diverted by events in North Africa, and an update on Southern Sudan, and see where else news is happening.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunisia riots, president of 23 years steps down

I need to grade final exams today, but wikipedia has a pretty good summary of what's been going on in Tunisia over the past month or two. Long story short: President Ben Ali ran the country for 23 years, in party with the help of support from France and the US, who liked that he kept the country from being taken over by Islamic extremists.  Of course, to do that he had to use a little bit of repression, which doesn't always go over well with the locals (note that the above description, with different names and dates, also describes Egypt and other countries in the region).  

Usually Tunisia is pretty calm, thanks in part to government subsidies for basic life needs, but the government started pulling back on that.  In late December, young people started rioting in response to joblessness and so on.  By early January, the protests had spread - 95% of lawyers went on strike, teachers went on strike, etc.  The police, who had started off breaking up riots pretty peacefully, started using riot gear and tear gas, but it didn't help. On January 14, President Ali stepped down.

Some Western observers are calling the events the Jasmine Revolution, following the other color revolutions in the past few years.

After Ali stepped down, Prime Minister Ghannouchi took charge of a unity government dominated by the president's party, but protestors weren't happy with that, so they demanded that members of opposition parties quit the government.  In today's NY Times, it was reported that five or more ministers from opposition parties quit the unity government, which is putting the Prime Minister in a tough spot.  We'll see how long he lasts. 


This is a big event for Tunisia, and an even bigger event given the context of North Africa and the Middle East ("MENA").  I'm trying to think of a previous example in which a long-lived dictators was overthrown by domestic protests and I'm not thinking of any in the past 30 years or so (I'm going to look real quick at some countries in the region on www.rulers.org ). Most of the changes took place in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.   The uprising against the French in Algeria (see the Battle of Algiers) was in the late 50s/early 60s.  Nasser and company overthrew the monarchy or whatever in Egypt in the 50s and has been ruled by Mubarak since 1981. Qaddafi has been running Libya since 1969. Morocco still has a king. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, etc. are still run by kings or sultans or emirs or whatever.  Iraq we know.  Iran had it's Islamic revolution in 1979.  Here's a possible candidate as precedent: Mauritania had President Taya as president from 1984-2005, but he was overthrown in a coup, not an uprising. Things haven't been going great since - a short military government, a short civilian government, another short military government, and another civilian government elected in 2009. 


So some rulers in the area, like Mubarak and Qaddafi, might want to worry.  Both of them are, I believe, grooming sons to be successors. Libya has all that oil, Egypt still gets gobs of aid money from the US. Those factors alone suggest they'll be OK in the short and medium term.  Here is a blogger looking at income levels and so on to say that Tunisia is a more likely candidate for democracy than its neighbors. Some scholars, most famously Przeworski and his co-authors, dispute the idea that high income facilitates transition to democracy, but many others, including Boix & Stokes, say that high income does play a positive role, albeit a small one. 


I should be grading now.  I'll post more if I have time. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

South Sudan referendum update

Reuters reports that turnout has already passed the 60 percent threshold required for the referendum to be binding.  Voting will continue until this Saturday (I think - it says it's a week-long voting period) and preliminary results won't be available until February.  This is a reminder that infrastructure in a lot of Africa isn't great, and in South Sudan it's particularly bad.  It's about 25,000 square miles in size (about the size of West Virginia) and has only 40 miles of paved roads, that's a road density (road miles per 100 square miles) of about 0.2.  Sudan as a whole has the lowest road density in Africa (0.5), and most of the roads are in the north.   For comparison, West Virginia has a road density of 7 road miles per 100 square miles.

This being Sudan, Reuters also reports 46 deaths in clashes between Northern nomads and southerners.

Jonathan Chait at tnr.com is one of my favorite bloggers, and I was glad to see that someone (Martin Peretz) at TNR did a short blog on Sudan. Africa isn't  his specialty and he was mostly good about qualifying his statements (Perhaps... possibly...).  For example, he says "The nightmare that faces almost all of the African states is that very few of them consist of one integral people. In fact, I don’t recall one of them." Well, I can recall one, and it's Somalia.  It didn't help much, did it?  Not only is Somalia a total mess, it didn't even manage to stay unified. The only reason South Sudan is looking to become a sovereign state before Somaliland is because the international community isn't recognizing Somaliland's sovereignty.  (UPDATE: Maybe Peretz meant, when he said one integral people, a country where that one people is undivided.  If that is the case, Somalia isn't an exception - there are Somali-populated regions in Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, and Somalia wasted a lot of its resources at independence trying to unite Greater Somalia through force of arms).

So Peretz quotes Ramberg who says that states should break up if they can't get along.  But there are reasons they don't usually break up.  One is that the land held by the opposition often has something the central government wants, such as oil (as in the case of Sudan).  Another is that the international community doesn't like to recognize new sovereign states, at least not in Africa (as shown in the case of Somaliland).  If the international community is unlikely to recognize you, this deters potential secessionists from seeking secession, and if the international community gives you aid based in part on the level of suffering, governments won't want to give up regions that are suffering.  The best thinker I know on this stuff is Pierre Englebert, I wish Peretz had quoted him instead.  In fact, I'll put that in a comment to Martin's post now.

I asked Pierre what he thinks of the South Sudan referendum.  He is happy for them, but is uncertain about their future success.  He notes that they have been fighting for recognition more than they have been working on state construction.  This brings me back to the roads situation.  Herbst talks about how African states are states in name, and are recognized by the international community, but many of them aren't really states in the sense that the central government has full control over its territory. Herbst measures state capacity using paved road density.  As noted above, South Sudan will have significantly lower road density than anywhere else in Africa, so it seems unlikely that it will be one of Africa's big success stories anytime soon.

Although it depends how you measure success. As would be the case for an independent South Sudan, Chad and Angola have oil but not roads, and they were two of the biggest economic success in the world. But Chad is spending a lot of its oil revenues on arms to fight its civil war rather than on development.  Angola ended its civil war almost 10 years ago, but life there still isn't great for most.  According to the human development index (HDI, based on health and education as well as income), Angola still ranks near the bottom - number 146 out of 169 countries, just below Haiti.

Friday, January 7, 2011

African economies finally growing

The Economist notes that 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa, and 7 of the 10 countries with the best predicted economic growth in the next 5 years are in Africa.  Three of the fastest 6 are big oil producers (Angola, Nigeria, and Chad - not a big oil producer yet but recently discovered oil so growing from a very low base) and Rwanda grew quickly because it was playing catchup from destroying its economy in the civil war.

Still, though, Africa has historically been somewhat of a basket case, so this is definitely good news.  But are these exceptions or is Africa as a region doing better?  The Economist article notes that Africa as a region did better than Latin America in the 2000s (although still trailed Asia), whereas Latin America grew faster than Africa in the 1990s.  So Africa is definitely doing much better than it has in the past, thanks to improved economic policies and so on.

One thing to note is that the Economist listed GDP growth, which is important for investors looking where growth is happening and to have an idea of which countries are increasing their economic weight on the world stage, but it's not the best measure if we want to know whether living standards are improving.  A better measure is GDP per capita, to account for population growth, and indeed African countries tend to have high population growth.

I just looked at real GDP growth rate and real GDP per capita growth rate for 2000-2007 because that's what was available in the Quality of Governance data set I have handy (I used the United Nations data). Here is what I got by region for countries with population over 10 million:

                                            Real GDP Growth         Real GDP per capita growth
Eastern Europe                                 6.1                                                6.1
Latin America                                  4.4                                                 3.1
North Africa & Middle East             4.6                                                2.7
Sub-Saharan Africa                          5.3                                                2.8
Western Europe & North America   2.3                                                1.6
East Asia (including Japan)              4.5                                                4.1
South-East Asia                                7.1                                                5.6
South Asia                                        7.8                                                5.7

(I haven't figured out how to put a nicer looking table on the blog yet)

So sub-Saharan Africa beat Latin America 5.3 to 4.4 in the 2000s if you look at GDP growth, but if you look at GDP per capita growth, Latin America did better.  But still, Africa did a lot better than it has in the past.  In the 1990s, GDP growth was 3.2% and GDP per capita growth was 0.4%, meaning in ten years, quality of life on average almost stood still. In the 1980s, GDP per capita growth was -0.9%.  So an average per capita growth rate of 2.8% is really good for Africa, historically speaking. I'll take it.

More on South Sudan referendum

Here is a Monkey Cage post by a doctoral student, Cameron Wimpy, in Southern Sudan.


And here is Cameron's blog, including his impressions of the referendum process in Southern Sudan and some photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Elections in Nigeria

The next thing I plan to blog a bit about when I have time is elections in Nigeria - voting started today for the governorship in Delta state, one of Nigeria's main oil-producing states, and how that election goes will impact the presidential election that is coming up in April. Rivals are trying to block frontrunner President Goodluck Jonathan from running.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This is important, too - African leaders mobilize to help U2

http://aidwatchers.com/2010/12/aid-watch-rerun-african-leaders-advise-bono-on-reform-of-u2/

New country in the near future - South Sudan!

I don't have time to write about this, but this is pretty big news - South Sudan may become country #193 this month. See Economist article. Wikipedia has more info with lots of links to articles, and if you want more you can go to southsudannation.com .

UPDATE: In preparation for voting on the referendum for independence, which starts Sunday January 9, the army of Southern Sudan signed a ceasefire with a renegade general's fighters.  This is a reminder that conflict in Sudan is not only between the central government and southern Sudan, or between the central government (and its proxies) and Darfur, there is also conflict within southern Sudan. Scholars such as Zachariah Mampilly have been writing about these conflicts for years, but they don't get as much attention in the popular press.

Anyway, if South Sudan becomes its own country, this will be huge news, not just for its inhabitants, but also because it is a major exception in the history of independent Africa.  As Pierre Englebert and Rebecca Hummel note, Africa, with its arbitrary borders and social cleavages, seems ripe for secessionist movements, yet these rarely occur and almost never succeed (Eritrea being a notable exception). Englebert has argued that artificial borders are a major cause of Africa's poor governance and performance, and sees the emergence of states with new boundaries, recognized by the international community, as a potential way to encourage better governance on the continent. My guess is that Pierre sees Sunday's vote as a positive development, but I haven't heard him say so directly.  I'll email him now and see what he says.  He might also think that Cote d'Ivoire would be better off splitting in half rather than continuing as a single state.

UPDATE #2: The Economist has some good coverage of the upcoming vote. And here is there coverage of the last time a new African state (Eritrea) was born.  They are with Englebert, that new states can be a good thing for Africa. Also from the Economist, a video history of modern Sudan:

200 countries, 200 years, in 4 minutes

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things looking slightly better in Cote d'Ivoire

Gbagbo agreed to lift a blockade(!) on Ouattara's temporary headquarters in the Hotel du Golf and to negotiate with Ouattara, who agreed to give Gbagbo a face-saving exit, as long as Gbagbo admits he lost the election.

As this short piece points out, however, Gbagbo appears to be in the company of rulers such as Mugabe who care about almost nothing else but staying in power, no matter how much their legitimacy has evaporated and how bad it is for their country.  So I won't feel too optimistic until Gbagbo physically leaves the building.

Monday, January 3, 2011

(Former) President of Cote d'Ivoire continues to refuse to step down

Laurent Gbagbo, who has been president of Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) since 2000, refuses to recognize the results of the election held November 28, which international observers agree was won by his opponent, Alassane Ouattara. "Ivory Coast's constitutional court, run by a staunch Gbagbo ally, reversed the U.N.-ratified electoral commission results showing a Ouattara win, citing massive evidence of fraud."

The irony is that when Gbagbo was first elected, the head of the state at the time,  General Robert Guei, claimed that he had won the election, but Gbagbo insisted that he was the true winner, and street protests of Gbagbo supporters convinced Guei to recognize the results.  Furthermore, the only reason Gbagbo won in the first place was because Guei had outlawed the other competitors, including former president Henri Konan Bedie (who was overthrown by Guei in 1999) and Ouatarra. 

Ouattara may be the most viable presidential candidate since Félix Houphouët-Boigny died in 1993, after ruling the country for 33 years.  Ouattara was Prime Minister from 1990-1993 and carried out presidential duties for the last 18 months, as Houphouet-Boigny was ill.  A few hours after Houphouet-Boigny died, Bedie, the President of the National Assembly under Houphouet-Boigny, went on national television and announced that he was the new president. A few months later he was elected president of the ruling party, the PDCI. Before facing Ouattara in the 1995 presidential election, Bedie had the electoral code changed so that candidates with a foreign-born parent were barred from running in order to disqualify Ouatarra, enabling Bedie to win virtually uncontested (Gbagbo also boycotted this election). Guei overthrew Bedie in 1999 (Guei was originally dismissed as chief of the army in 1995 for refusing to mobilize troops against Ouattara). In 2000, Ouattara was still disqualified, as was Emile Constant Bombet and Bedie, enabling Gbagbo to win.  Civil war broke out a few years later, and although Gbagbo's term was supposed to end in 1995, it has been extended continuously because of the war and delayed elections. 

So Gbagbo saying Ouattara shouldn't take office because of elections irregularities is pretty rich. In any case, the international community, including the UN, has endorsed the results from the country's own electoral commission that Outarra won by over 8 percentage points, 54.1 to 45.9.  Hopefully Gbagbo will accept reality soon before serious civil war re-erupts. The reason Gbagbo became president in the first place is because protestors called on the incumbent to recognize the results - following the Gbagbo's refusal in early December, protestors took to the streets, burning tires and so on.  

South Africa invited to join BRIC group

 The BRIC group is Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Jim O'Neill of Goldman Sachs invented "the BRIC term in 2001 to describe the four nations that he estimates will collectively equal the U.S. in economic size by 2020." At the time it was intended to be a term used for investors but since then it has taken on meaning as a political group as well. The BRIC countries had their first official summit in Russia in June 2009 and are meeting in China in 2011.  South Africa is invited to this summit, and there is speculation that the name will be changed to BRICS.  Jim O'Neill doesn't consider South Africa, with an economy and population much smaller than the other four, to be a viable candidate for the group. South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, and Mexico are more reasonable candidates by those measures.  But South Africa adds a new continent to the group, and China wants to expand its role in the economy of Africa in general. "China emerged as Africa's largest trading partner in 2009, outpacing the European Union and the United States, China's People's Daily said." South Africa is obviously the largest economy in Africa.  This works for South Africa as well, raising its position as a future global power and investment target. Martin "Davies said South Africa could better earn a seat on economic merit if it can integrate the economies of the Southern African Development Community -- a 15-state regional block."

First post

I waste too much of my time looking at blogs on American politics, especially Jonathon Chait and Ezra Klein.  Since my primary geographic research focus is Africa, I should spend more time than I do following African politics.  I looked for a blog on African politics that I like as much as the blogs I read on American politics, but couldn't find one.  If someone knows of one, please let me know.  In the meantime, starting in 2011, I will try to transfer some of the time I waste from reading American politics blogs to writing an African politics blog.

Since it is the start of the year, I was going to try to start off with something that kind of summarizes the past year, but I need to do some other things today and that sounds time consuming, so I'll just start with some of the interesting stories of the day.