Friday, August 28, 2015

A Beninois presidential candidate for every card in the deck

I updated my post on the Benin election, to add Prime Minister Zinsou to the top of the list, and then I noticed a friend of mine shared a post from Henri N'dah-Sekou with all 52 candidates. One for every card in the deck!

Here's the content from his post (I bolded the names that were in my earlier post):

2016 comme jamais! 
Plus de 50 candidats pour la présidentielle.
Une vraie brochette.
Un pur casse tête pour la CENA. 
Un vrai labyrinthe pour les électeurs.
Les 15 millions de caution fixés par le code électoral seront ils suffisants pour dissuader certains? 
1 Ake Natonde 
2 Karimou Chabi Sika 
3 Patrice Talon
4 Pascal Irénée Koupaki 
5 Abdoulaye Bio Tchane
6 Celestine Zannou 


Sierra Leone's success against Ebola helped by local chiefs

Tribal politics are often blamed for many of Africa's troubles, including the response to Ebola. The multitude of mother tongues posed problems for the response to Ebola since many of the communications about the disease and how to avoid it were in English or French and only 20% of the affected countries' populations speak either of those languages. Some traditional healers were reluctant to refer patients to hospitals. 

However, local tribal leaders also played an important role in the effective response to the disease in Sierra Leone, where the last person known to have Ebola in Sierra Leone was discharged on Tuesday.

According to The Economist, Ebola in Sierra Leone struck Sierra Leone first in the east side of the country. But the disease was controlled in the south-east earlier than it was in the north-west (see map), despite the north-west receiving more aid. The explanation given in the article is that two doctors connected to the local chief called for a meeting early in the epidemic; many local leaders attended the meeting, and laws were passed (such as a ban on taking in sick relatives) to contain the spread of the disease. 

In the north, on the other hand, government-appointed officials pushed aside local leaders, which led to a lack of cooperation. Only later, with the army manning checkpoints and more cooperation between the government and local leaders, was the disease contained in the north.  

The episode is a reminder that many African governments suffer from a lack of perceived legitimacy, because of the mismatch between local authority and central authority. But it is also a hopeful reminder that if central governments are willing to work together with local authorities, this can lead to greater effectiveness in tackling their countries' problems. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Former ruling party banned (again? still? to a lesser degree?) in upcoming election in Burkina Faso

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the electoral code adopted in April banned Burkina Faso's former ruling party, the CDP, and some of its allies from competing in the upcoming election. The banned parties appealed to the Constitutional Court, who turned them down in May because of inadequate signatures. The banned parties appealed to the ECOWAS Community Court, and in July that court ruled that banning those parties was a violation of their human rights. So the CDP registered to compete in the election, along with some aligned parties and parties made up of former CDP members.

Now the Constitutional Court of Burkina Faso has ruled that the electoral code IS constitutional, and the banned parties are banned. Or at least some of their candidates are. The CDP held a press conference about it yesterday, and are calling for their supporters to launch a campaign of civil disobedience if they are not allowed to participate in the election.

When they were in the opposition, CDP's opponents boycotted elections in 1991 and 1998 because of the CDP's tactics, and now I guess the shoe is on the other foot. But it would be best for Burkina Faso's future, I think, to avoid tactics such as banning parties outright (or banning candidates based on their party affiliation).

UPDATE: Thanks to @mkevane for clarifying that the more recent ruling applies to some candidates and not the whole party. I added "to a lesser degree?" to the post title.)

UPDATE 2: The Supreme Court decision to exclude the CDP candidate for president seems pretty sweeping after all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Drama in Benin's upcoming presidential election UPDATED

Her Spirit may be Rising, but she doesn't seem to be Running
Following the three elections coming up this October, there will be two presidential elections in ECOWAS countries at the beginning of 2016: Niger, where first-term President Issoufou is eligible to run again in January, and Benin in February. 

There's been some interesting drama regarding the Benin race so let's take a look. 

President Yayi Boni is finishing up his second term, so it's an open race. There was speculation that President Yayi wanted to amend the constitution to enable a third term, but his party did poorly in the parliamentary election in May, so that option was shut out. 

The most famous Beninois in the United States is surely Angelique Kidjo, and there was hope among some last year that she would run, but their Facebook page hasn't been updated in ten months so I don't think that's happening. Bummer. 

The recent drama among actual candidates circles around Patrice Talon, who was reportedly going to return to Benin this month after three years in exile in France. Talon spoke of his intentions to run for president in an interview with Radio France International earlier this week. Talon is a businessman accused of embezzling around $20 million from the government's cotton fertilizer subsidy program. President Yayi wants Talon to be prosecuted if he returns to Benin. Some of the president's former advisors, however, are organizing for a presidential run by Talon.

Dig deeper and things get even more interesting. Talon used to be an ally of the president, and helped finance his election campaigns. Talon says he split with the president because Yayi wanted to run for a third term. Yayi says Talon wanted to use lucrative state contracts to grow his fortune, and became upset when those contracts were canceled. Yayi accuses Talon of organizing an assassination-by-poison in 2012 plot that included the president's niece and doctor and a second coup attempt in 2013. Supporters of Talon in the government were sacked in 2013.

UPDATE (August 28): Wednesday's post had a list of potential candidates from an article in March. Michael Kevane pointed out that I missed President Yayi's apparent choice as his successor, Lionel Zinsou, who was appointed prime minister (a position not required by the Constitution but used occasionally by Beninois governments) in June.

Here is an updated list of potential presidential candidates from last month (most, apart from Zinsou and Judge Houssou, were also included in March):

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Countdown: Sierra Leone 42 days from being Ebola-free

Ebola survivors tell their stories at the Survivors’ Conference in Kenema, Sierra Leone.
WHO/S. Gborie

Reuters: "Sierra Leone released its last confirmed Ebola patient from hospital on Monday and began a 42-day countdown to being declared free of the virus ..."

But they aren't necessarily out of the woods yet: "During the course of the epidemic, the outbreak has ebbed only to flare back again. Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May but a fresh cluster of cases appeared nearly two months later. Scientists say sexual transmission is the most likely explanation for the resurgence in Liberia since the virus can live on in semen beyond the usual 21-day incubation period."

Other recent good news on the Ebola front: an Ebola vaccine in Guinea shows promise.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Burkina Faso election update - many candidates from the "old political guard"

Former minister Gilbert Noël Ouédraogo selected as presidential candidate by ADF-RDA
Friday was the deadline to register for Burkina Faso's October presidential election, and Reuters notes that many among the 22 candidates are a former prime minister or minister.

That's pretty standard in African elections. As I mentioned last week, the main candidates in Guinea's upcoming election (also in October) includes the incumbent president, two former prime ministers, and potentially a former president.

When I wrote about the Burkina Faso election earlier in the month, I cited an article on that said that the deadline was August 1st and there were 98 candidates. I'm not sure if that article was wrong, I misunderstood, or the deadline was extended and some of the candidates didn't qualify.

Anyway, the four top candidates mentioned by Reuters were the top four in my list of eleven:

Boko Haram attacks Nigerian chief of army staff again - and pays the price

Boko Haram really doesn't like Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, who was appointed in July by President Buhari after he fired the military top brass for their failure against Boko Haram under Buhari's predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

Last month, Boko Haram burned down Buratai's house (he wasn't home). Yesterday, they attacked his convoy. Ten of the attackers were killed and five captured; one Nigerian soldier was killed.

Since losing control of most of the territory Boko Haram held at the start of the year (at that time it was the size of Belgium), the terrorist group has resorted to hit and run tactics.

If Boko Haram hates Buratai that much, I figure he must be doing a pretty good job. It's a good sign that he is always on the ground, rather than hiding out in the capital, which is what Jonathan's military chiefs were apparently doing. This article says that in yesterday's attack, "soldiers led personally by Buratai returned fire, killing five Boko Haram members at the spot." Rambo couldn't have done better.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Buhari tackles corruption in Nigeria's state-owned oil company

Up to $12 billion of Nigerian oil money was "diverted" by the corrupt folks in its state-owned oil company, reports the Economist.

"The state-owned oil company sells almost half the 2m barrels that Africa’s biggest producer churns out each day, making it the government’s single largest source of revenue. It has been dogged by allegations of wrongdoing since Mr Buhari helped create it back in the 1970s. Under the watch of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, and his petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, it ran totally out of control. Even as the price of oil boomed between 2011 and 2014, remittances to the treasury fell (see chart). Now that prices have plummeted, government coffers are empty and the currency has tanked."

Thanks in part to his corruption (as well as his poor performance against Boko Haram), Jonathan lost to Buhari, and now Buhari seems to be delivering on his promise to root out corruption. "Mr Buhari has sacked the NNPC’s board and earlier this month named Emmanuel Kachikwu, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former Exxon Mobil bigwig, as chief executive. He has already started axing old-guard executives."

It will take more than that to solve Nigeria's corruption problems (Nigeria isn't at the bottom of Transparency International's ranking any more but it's fairly close - tied with Russia and a few other countries at #136 out of 174 countries). But it's a good start.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What does China's shock currency devaluation mean for Africa?

Prof. Deborah Brautigam (Johns Hopkins SAIS) wrote on Tuesday on about how China's recent shock currency devaluation will affect Africa.

The devaluation, unlike what China was apparently doing in earlier decades, was not a move toward "undervaluing" the currency; China's currency before the recent devaluation was reportedly "overvalued" because of its link to the increasingly strong dollar, and this devaluation brings it closer to market value for a basket of currencies. 

But the result of the devaluation, regardless of its motivation, will be the same. China's imports into Africa will be cheaper, and China's buying power for African exports will be weaker. 

Although cheaper imports from China will be nice for some African consumers (when I was a volunteer in Benin, most of the local bicycles were made in China, for example; many cell phones in Africa today are made in China), the currency devaluation poses a number of developmental challenges for Africa. 

Africa's main exports to China are fuel and crude materials such as copper and gold (see figure below). As China's buying power drops, there will be less demand for those exports in the short term. On the other hand, if China's devaluation enables it to return to stronger export-driven economic growth, it will buy more commodities in the medium term. 

Africa’s Rising Exposure to China: How Large Are
Spillovers Through Trade? IMF Working Paper 13/250
Furthermore, to the extent that commodity exports such as oil and minerals result in a "resource curse", such as Dutch Disease, meaning reliance on exports of valuable mineral commodities increases a currency's value and makes it less competitive in the manufacturing sector, a reduction in the value of commodity exports might have a positive effect on development in the medium term. 

However, cheaper imports from China will put African manufacturers at a greater cost disadvantage, which may undermine development. Most (all?) countries in Africa are members of the WTO and so are constrained from raising tariffs to protect local manufacturers from cheaper imports. 

As for investments, China's buying power for new investments in Africa will also be weaker, but profits from investments in Africa will be more profitable (when repatriated to China) will be more valuable, which might offset the investment cost disincentive. 

What about ECOWAS countries?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Presidential Election Extravaganza this October, Part 3: Guinea

All of the upcoming presidential elections in ECOWAS countries, from this year through 2020, are listed HERE. I just found a nice source of information on elections in Africa, with an interactive map, from the Africa Research Institute.

Three countries are having elections this coming October, in a veritable Presidential Election Extravaganza. In earlier posts I covered the upcoming elections in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire. Today I'll briefly go over Guinea.

A little history:

Ahmed Sekou Toure was president of Guinea from independence in 1958 until his death in 1984. In 1960 he declared the Parti démocratique de Guinée (PDG) the sole legal party in the country. He was re-elected in single-party elections in 1961, 1968, 1974, and 1982.

Upon his death in 1984, Sekou Toure was succeeded by his prime minister, Louis Lansana Beavogui, who acted as interim President briefly until he was deposed in a military coup led by Lansana Conté and Diarra Traoré. Conté served as president from 1984 until he died in 2008. Running under his Unity and Progress Party (PUP), Conté won Guinea's first multiparty presidential elections in 1993, and again in 1998, and 2003. The 2003 election was boycotted by the main opposition candidates. Alpha Condé (RPG) (see below) placed 2nd in 1993 and 3rd in 1998.

Six hours after Conte's death was announced, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara launched a military coup. After becoming injured in an assassination attempt, Camara left the country and Vice President Sékouba Konaté became acting president for a year until the 2010 election.

In 2010, Alpha Condé of the Rally of the Guinean People (RPG) party won the presidency. Despite their last names sounding so similar, Condé was in opposition to Conté for decades.

The present:

Condé is facing his first re-election this October. There were protests in May over the timing of elections. Community elections have not been held since 2005. In the lead up to the 2013 legislative elections (which had been delayed for 6 years), "dozens of people were killed and more than 400 injured as security forces and opposition protesters clashed repeatedly on the streets of Conakry. ... Things took another violent turn (in April) after Guinea’s independent electoral commission, CENI, announced that presidential elections would be held this year on 11 October, ahead of municipal elections scheduled for March 2016. ... The opposition has asked for the community elections ... to take place ahead of presidential elections."

Today, Reuters reports that "Guinea's political opposition said (today) it had reached a compromise with President Alpha Conde to name new mayors and redistribute local government posts as part of talks to pave the way for peaceful elections in October... The opposition has for months accused the government of breaching a deal to hold local polls before the presidential vote, a factor they say gives Conde an advantage since municipal authorities are packed with his supporters."

Who is this opposition, you ask? 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summary of recent violence in Mali

Malian security forces rescued hostages, including five foreigners, who were evacuated to Bamako.
Photograph: Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA/Corbis

I've been ignoring the recent violence in Mali because I was hoping it would finish up and then I could write one post that covers the full story, but stuff seems to keep happening so I'll post a quick summary of recent events.

Hotel Attack in central Mali

On Friday August 7, "Suspected Islamist militants attacked a hotel in central Mali used by U.N. staff, killing at least six people, taking others hostage and holding off troops encircling the building ... Friday's violence began with a raid on a military site in the town of Sevare, around 600 km (400 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, that was successfully repelled by government troops ..."

On Saturday, August 8, "Five foreigners were evacuated and a number of hostages freed after they were trapped by gunmen in a hotel standoff with soldiers in central Mali that left 12 people dead, ... the 12 deaths included five soldiers, three hostages and four terrorists ..." On that date, no-one had claimed credit for the attack, but there was speculation about the Sahara-based group al-Mourabitoun and Ansar Dine, a Malian group with links to al Qaeda, each of whom launched similar attacks against the Malian army, UN Peacekeepers, and/or foreigners. Another possibility is AQIM, who took over the north of Mali in 2012.

On Monday, August 10, "Militant group al-Mourabitoun, which is linked to al Qaeda, ... claimed responsibility for (the) hotel siege in central Mali at the weekend in which 17 people died."

Attack on police in Bamako

On Wednesday, August 12, "Gunmen killed two police officers in an attack on the main bus station in the Malian capital Bamako ... "

Fighting in Northern Mali

On Saturday, August 15, "Rival armed groups in northern Mali said on Saturday they briefly exchanged fire in the first apparent breach of a peace accord they signed with the government in June. An exchange of light and heavy weapons fire took place south of Kidal, the stronghold of secular Tuareg rebels leading a coalition known as the Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA."

"Separatists in Mali accused a pro-government militia on Sunday of breaching a two-month-old ceasefire, leading to a fierce exchange of fire, but the militia said the separatists were the aggressors."

I discussed the history of the separatist movement in Mali a bit in an earlier blog post. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guinea Bissau government sacked by president

The BBC and Reuters reports this morning that "Guinea Bissau's President Jose Mario Vaz has dismissed the government of the fragile West African nation because of a deepening power struggle with the prime minister."

In the United States, it sounds funny to read a headline that the president dismissed the government, because in the US (presidential system), the president leads the government. But Guinea Bissau has a semi-presidential system, with a president head-of-state and a prime minister head-of-government, and the prime minister leads the cabinet. But the president can sack the prime minister in Guinea Bissau. I suppose now the president will nominate a new prime minister, and a majority of the parliament will need to agree, or else new elections will be held. The article doesn't mention elections so I don't think we're at that point yet.

There is a whole blog about semipresidential systems, called "The semipresidential one," at You can click through there to read some coverage of Guinea Bissau's previous coups.

Usually political conflict in a semipresidential system is the result of "co-habitation," in which the president (elected directly by voters) is from one party and the prime minister (elected by legislators) is from another party. In the Guinea Bissau case today, however, both the president and prime minister are from the same party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). The PAIGC ran Guinea Bissau from independence in 1973 until 1999 (mostly under single party rule or military council rule) and also ruled Cape Verde, also a former Portuguese colony, from independence in 1975 until 1980.

There are concerns that the conflict between the president and the prime minister will lead to a coup. Since multiparty elections were introduced in 1994, no elected leader has finished a full term. Previous coups included 1980, against the first president, Luis Cabral (of the PAIGC party) by Prime Minister Joao Bernardo Vieira (also of the PAIGC party). Vieira ruled until1999, when he was overthrown in a coup. Then Kumba Ialá of the PRS party won the presidency in 1999; in 2001 he sacked his prime minister, and then in 2003 he is overthrown in a coup. Vieira returns from exile in Portugal in 2005 and wins the presidency. He sacks one prime minister that same year, in 2007 another prime minister resigns, in 2008 he dissolves the parliament which leads to another prime minister losing office, and then in 2009 Vieira is shot dead by mutinous soldiers. In 2009, a PAIGC candidate wins the presidency, but after surviving a coup attempt in 2011 he dies in hospital in 2012. Soldiers then topple the interim government. In 2014, Jose Mario Vaz of the PAIGC won the presidency.

The conflict between the fellow PAIGC members was described by the BBC: "The two men are said to have disagreed on a number of issues including the use of aid money and the return to Guinea-Bissau of a former army chief of staff."

Getting back to institutional categories (because who can ever get enough of that topic? Not me...), Guinea Bissau's specific form of semipresidentialism is of the variation "president-parliamentary" rather than "premier-presidential." Robert Elgie, who writes "the semipresidential one" blog, argues that president-parliamentary systems are the less stable, and his book uses Guinea Bissau as an example. In a president-parliamentary system, the president relies on the prime minister to lead the cabinet, but because he can remove the prime minister, he has little incentive to work cooperatively. In a premier-presidential system, on the other hand, it is the legislature, not the president, that has the power to remove the prime minister, and so the president has a greater incentive to find common political ground with the prime minister.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What did the Ebola outbreak teach us about West Africa?

There was a nice piece in the Monkey Cage about what did the Ebola outbreak teach us about West Africa, with specifics from Liberia, by journalist and researcher Ashoka Mukpo.

He starts by noting that the rule of thumb for journalism is, “If it bleeds, it leads.” This is why when so many Americans think about Africa, they think that all that is happening is civil wars and disease outbreaks, if they aren't just thinking about safari animals and primitive tribesmen. I remember when I was leaving for the Peace Corps in Benin, and people were telling me to watch out for Ebola. That was in 1995, when the Ebola outbreak was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which you can see from this map is even further from Benin that the current outbreak. Benin is over 1500 miles from the DRC. Telling me to look out for Ebola in the DRC when I'm going to Benin would be like telling someone in Africa to look out for a snowstorm in Los Angeles when they tell you they're going to Chicago. Hey, they're both cities in the United States, right?

When I look at the Reuters Africa page for stories for this blog, most of the stories are usually about violence, disease, or poor governance.

Here is the count right now for the first 2 pages: 12 stories on various types of deadly attacks, and 7 stories not about attacks. And the non-attack stories are often indirectly about attacks - two stories about the killing of Cecil the lion, and one story about a presidential candidate from the party of a man on trial for crimes against humanity in the recent civil war in Cote d'Ivoire:
  • 12 stories about terrorist attacks, pirate attacks, genocide, or civil war (recent attack in Mali, deadly attack by a Rwandan peacekeeper in the CAR, Rwandan spy chief released in the UK, pirate attacks in Nigeria)
  • 2 stories about corruption (Buhari's anti-graft moves in Nigeria, French investigation into bribery by a Gabonese official)
  • 2 stories about wildlife (Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe)
  • 1 story about business or economics (Ford to start assembly in Nigeria)
  • 1 story about immigration (UK foreign secretary warns African migrants threatens the EU's living standards
  • 1 story about election politics (candidate in Cote d'Ivoire from the party of Gbagbo, who is on trial for crimes against humanity)
Anyway, back to the Monkey Cage post. Now that Ebola is no longer an international health emergency, it is not much in the news. But the Ebola outbreak provides a window into other aspects of West Africa:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Former president's party selects candidate for October's presidential election in Cote d'Ivoire

Reuters reports that "The party of Ivory Coast's ex-president Laurent Gbagbo (the Ivorian Popular Front - FPI) has chosen its leader, Pascal Affi N'Guessan, to run in an Oct. 25 presidential election that will mark its return to electoral politics following a string of boycotts since a brief 2011 war."

President Ouattara is favored to win the election, with strong economic performance since his inauguration in 2011, and support from both his own Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party and his former party, and party of former presidents Houphouet-Boigny and Bedie, the Democratic Party of Cote d'Ivoire (PDCI). (Ouattara was a member of the PDC under Houphouet-Boigny; Bedie is still head of the PDCI.)

Former president Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court (Cour Penale Internationale, or CPI, in French) in the Hague for crimes against humanity. There was speculation that Gbagbo would be the FPI's candidate from jail, but that didn't pan out.

Read more about Cote d'Ivoire's upcoming presidential election in my earlier blog post. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Presidential Election Extravaganza this October, Part 2: Cote d'Ivoire

Yesterday, Cote d'Ivoire's government fixed Oct. 25 as the date for the upcoming presidential election. President Alassane Ouattara, candidate for the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) party, officially registered his candidacy with the election commission later in the day.

Having the election scheduled for the correct month is a sign of major progress. The 2005 election didn't happen until 2010, thanks to the Civil War. Ouattara won the 2010 election against the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo in a run-off that was so close that the Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner with 51% of the vote, despite the Independent Election Commission declaring Ouattara the winner with 54%. Gbagbo, with support from the army, was sworn in as president in the presidential palace and Ouattara was sworn in at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, where he had a parallel government protected by UN soldiers.  The international community, including ECOWAS, stood with Ouattara, and after a second civil war the Constitutional Council reversed its position and confirmed Ouattara's victory. 

Ouattara, who served as prime minister under Pres. Félix Houphouët-Boigny (PDCI) from 1990 until the president's death in 1993, is the front runner in the upcoming election, with 77% job approval ratings. 

  • Pascal Affi N'Guessan, who heads Gbagbo's Ivorian Patriotic Front (FPI), and
  • the National Coalition for Change, a new bloc composed largely of PDCI dissidents and a faction of FPI hardliners.
Here is a quick background on Cote d'Ivoire's politics:

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Presidential Election Extravaganza this October, Part 1: Burkina Faso

There are three presidential elections scheduled for this coming October in ECOWAS countries: Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoie, and Guinea. I'll take a look at each one, starting today with Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso

Blaise Compaore came to power in 1987 in a deadly coup against his former colleague, Thomas Sankara, who came to power in a 1983 coup (yesterday was the 32nd anniversary of the Revolution) with the help of Compaore. Sankara, by the way, was a super charismatic guy, sometimes called "Africa's Che Guevara." Google his name and you'll find all kinds of cool graphics with quotes and such.
Compaore wasn't as charismatic as Sankara but he's pretty wily. After Sankara died in an "accident" during the 1987 coup (Sankara's death is finally being investigated now), Campaore shared power with two others in a triumvirate/junta, until the other two members of the triumvirate were tried and executed for allegedly plotting to overthrow Compaore in 1989. In 1991 he "won" 100% of the vote in an election that the opposition boycotted completely because of Compaore's refusal to hold a national conference on political reform. In 1996, Compaore's party merged with nine other parties to create the Congress for Democracy and Peace, which has been the ruling party ever since. In 1998 he won 88% of the vote in an election boycotted by the major opposition parties. 

In 2000, a constitutional amendment was passed that put a two-term limit on the presidency, and reducing term length from 7 to 5 years. Compaore argued that the term limit wasn't retroactive, and ran for a third term in 2005. 

The opposition was fractionalized among multiple parties, although most candidates were supported by multiple parties. The main opposition candidates were Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara (who as far as I can tell is not related to Thomas Sankara), Philippe Ouédraogo (who as far as I can tell is not related to the President Jean-Baptiste Ouédraogo that was overthrown in the 1983 coup; Philippe was a minister in Sankara's government), Ram Ouédraogo (who as far as I can tell is related to neither Jean-Baptiste nor Philippe; Ram was a minister in Campaore's government), and Laurent Bado. Hermann Yaméogo (who IS related to the country's first president, Maurice Yaméogo; Hermann is son of Maurice) was supported by nine different opposition parties, but at the last minute decided to boycott the election. However, he was too late to be taken off the ballot. Compaore ended up winning with 80% of the vote, 

In 2010, Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara ran again and placed third. Hama Arba Diallo, whose party later officially merged with Philippe Ouédraogo's party to create PDS/Metba, placed second. The main opposition party, Union for Progress and Change (UPC) boycotted the election. Compaore again won with 80% of the vote. In 2011, soldiers mutinied in the capital over unpaid housing allowances and protests broke out throughout the country, demanding Campoare's resignation. Campaore fled the capital briefly before successfully negotiating with the army to put down the mutinies in protests. 

Last year, Compaore tried to have the constitution amended to allow for a third (or fifth, depending on when you start counting) term, but in October the people rose up and he stepped down. I think he is now hiding out in Cote d'Ivoire. Initially, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida took power (after sidelining General Honoré Traoré, Compaore's former aide de camp), and then politician Michel Kafando was named interim president (and Zida appointed prime minister) until elections in October 2015. 

A new electoral code was adopted in April. One problem with the new code was that it attempted to ban supporters of Compaore's attempted constitutional amendment to run for president. These types of exclusions can be problematic. For example, in Ghana the CPP banned opposition parties and then was overthrown in a coup by officers who in turn banned the CPP. Three years after the CPP-less election, another coup removed the government. A more recent example of party-exclusion followed by political instability is the the de-Baathification policy implemented in Iraq after Saddam's overthrow in 2003. 

Compaore's CDP and six other parties took their case to the ECOWAS Court of Justice, who ruled that the ban was a violation of CDP supporters' human rights and the ban was overturned 3 weeks ago. 

So the CDP has a candidate in the election, and some other former supporters of Compaore are also running. 

Here are some candidates (out of 98 total!) who are running in October's election: 

Monday, August 3, 2015

My note (with co-authors) on Togo's Presidential Election

The final version of my note on the April presidential election in Togo written with Jules Ahlin and Kim Dionne has been published by Electoral Studies. The article is freely available using this link until September 16, 2015.

A shorter version of the note was published in May in the Washington Post's Monkey Cage

Progress against Boko Haram includes liberated villages and captives - but challenges remain ahead

Last night the Nigerian army reported that it had liberated 178 hostages from Boko Haram. Of these, 101 were children, 67 women, and the rest men.

As far as I can tell, none of the liberated were among the 219 girls who where kidnapped in April 2014 that are Boko Haram's most well-known victims thanks to the Bring Back Our Girls campaign joined by celebrities and "regular people" around the world.

However, after pretty lame efforts against Boko Haram through the end of 2014 that enabled Boko Haram to control territory in northeast Nigeria the size of Belgium, Nigeria launched a counter attack in January 2015 (as Goodluck Jonathan was approaching the presidential election) that has contained and reduced the territory controlled by Boko Haram and has liberated a number of captives. 

In April 2015, Amnesty International estimated that some 2,000 women and girls had been abducted by Boko Haram since the start of 2014. The counterattack has managed to liberate many of these captives. In addition to the liberation achieved yesterday, for example, nearly 700 women and girls were liberated in a week in May.  

This set of maps shows that Boko Haram's area of control has shrunk from a Belgium-sized area in February 2015 to the Sambisa Forest in late April: