Monday, August 27, 2012

Another try at catching up

I haven't really figured out a way to fit regular blogging into my schedule yet, but I'm making another attempt.

A quick summary of some interesting events in Africa, by country, over the past year or so:

1. Algeria: Elections were held in May, but the Arab Spring passed Algeria by. According to the NY Times, "Most Algerians — anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent — boycotted the vote for a legislature that even officials here concede is do-nothing.... the party in power since independence half a century ago, the FLN, or National Liberation Front, consolidated its aging grip, increasing its majority in the new Parliament.... A finely tuned mix of cash and crackdown, money and repression — a mix unique to the region — has muted demands for change and allowed the ruling elite to retain its grip."
2. Angola: The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) is still in office after 37 years. "On August 31st Angolans will go to the polls to elect a new parliament for only the second time in 20 years."  That should be interesting... Or should it? Maybe participation and the outcome will be similar to Algeria's in May. I'll try to follow up next week.
3. Benin: Yayi Boni won re-election in 2011, although Houngbedji complained there was fraud, but he has lost a lot of presidential elections so maybe he is being a sore loser. Election monitors from ECOWAS say the election was free and fair. But Houngbedji does seem to have some grounds to complain, there were problems with registration, and Yayi Boni caught flack for the ponzi scheme
3. Botswana: Maybe the most successful country in Africa. Former President Festus Mogae won the Mo Ibrahim award in 2008. But there were strikes in June 2011, and three opposition parties and some members of the ruling BDP (which has been in power since independence) took the side of the strikers.
4. Burkina Faso: Blaise Compaoré won the presidential election yet again in 2010, this time with 80% of the vote. In April 2011 he dismissed his cabinet and his army chief after a string of protests by soldiers who said benefits were going unpaid. Compaore has been in power since 1987, when he led a coup against his buddy Sankara, so I guess he knows how to stay in office. 
5. Burundi: Trouble is afoot in Burundi. According to The Economist, "The trouble really began in 2010, when the opposition boycotted elections which it said were flawed but which international observers judged to be passably fair. Without any challengers, the ruling National Council for the Defence of Democracy and the Forces for the Defence of Democracy, known by its mouthful of French initials as CNDD-FDD, won the presidency with 91% of votes cast. It now has almost equally crushing majorities in both houses of parliament." The opposition, which had previously renounced violence, "are regrouping menacingly on the country's border." Earlier this year, unknown assailants attacked villages and towns. The government allegedly killed over 300 opposition members. 
6. Cameroon: Paul Biya won another election in October 2011 by another landslide, this time with 78% of the vote. He's been president since 1982, when Cameroon's first president (since 1960), Ahmadou Ahidjo, resigned. The opposition alleged vote fraud, and they seem to have a case, but the Supreme Court supported Biya. 
7. Cape Verde: President Pedro Verona Pires won the Mo Ibrahim award in 2011 after he stepped down from a successful presidency (first recipient since Botswana's ex-president). Cape Verde is one of Africa's more solid democracies. 

That's a good start. About 47 more countries to go, including North Africa and the islands.