Sunday, January 31, 2016

Elections and Security in Niger (UPDATED)

I'm on my way to my daughter's rock concert so I'll add to this later -

Nice Monkey Cage post from Lisa Mueller on the security situation in Niger, where a presidential election is scheduled for February 21.

UPDATE: Issoufou is favored to win, but there are two fairly strong candidates running against him. On the other hand, one of those two challengers was jailed for accusations of baby trafficking, prompting a lawyers' strike. Mueller notes that another presidential candidate, a physician, is being investigated as a suspect in Burkina Faso's recent bombing, after he tended to victims of the bomb blast, and in December Issoufou sacked nine military officers in December for a suspected coup plot. The recent military coup in neighboring Burkina Faso just before that country's presidential election can't be far from his mind. So Issoufou obviously isn't feeling safe.

Apart from the security of his office, Issoufou needs to worry about the related security of his country. There are recent terrorist attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali, apparently by AQIM, and Niger has had trouble with Boko Haram in the south. There has been some success against Boko Haram, with help from the US and other Western allies, but this opens Issoufou to accusations of putting Niger on the receiving end of necolonialism.

Mueller concludes:
"Questionable arrests and electoral fraud are arguably more threatening to Niger’s democracy than religious fundamentalism. Niger is not Mali or Burkina Faso. The country has its own domestic challenges to contend with, not least among them corruption, drug trafficking and chronic food shortages. A comprehensive international policy toward Niger would take all of those problems, and not just terrorism, into account."

Monday, January 25, 2016

New Islamic State in West Africa

The Economist reports on Gambia's president announcing that the country is now an Islamic Republic.

A little information about Gambia - it has fewer than 2 million people, it had what many considered free and fair elections from independence until 1984 under Dawda Jawara, until he was overthrown in a military coup by the current president, Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh.

Jammeh proclaimed Gambia an Islamic Republic on December 15, but the secular constitution is so for unaltered. A group of Islamic scholars, the Supreme Islamic Council, was deployed to stir up support for the decision, but it doesn't sound like Jammeh (who I'm pretty certain is not an Islamic Scholar) is going to give them any power over the presidency.

Speculation about the reason for the change seems to focus on non-spiritual motives. One of Gambia's main industries is tourism (it has some nice beaches), but the Ebola scare in nearby countries hurt that sector of the economy, and Western donors have cut aid because of human rights abuses. Also, Jammeh has some elections to rig win. Making the country an Islamic Republic might bring in some foreign aid from Gulf States, and appealing to religion may distract some of the (predominantly Muslim) Gambian voters from their economic struggles.

Challenges and opportunities for new president of Burkina Faso

The Monkey Cage has a nice post by Arsène Brice Bado summarizing the challenges facing Burkina Faso's first president in nearly 30 years.

It's a short article/listicle, so you might want as well go ahead and take a look, but here it is in 30 seconds or less:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Terrorist attack in Burkina Faso (UPDATED)

President Kobara is off to a tough start. Twenty-nine civilians from seven countries were killed in a violent terrorist attack in the nation's capital.

"Officials have not yet been able to determine whether al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Mourabitoun, groups that claimed responsibility for both attacks, used a local jihadist cell or sent fighters from northern Mali."

AQIM is part of Al Queda and was launched in Algeria, spread to Mali where it took over half the country until the French dropped some bombs, after which it expanded into Tunisia and Morocco. I believe this would be AQIM's first attack in Burkina Faso.

UPDATE: The Monkey Cage has a nice extended post about what the attack means for Burkina Faso - consequences, challenges, etc. Check it out. 

November Burkina Faso Presidential Election Results

People stand in front of a campaign poster for Burkina Faso presidential candidate Roch Marc Kabore in Ouagadougou. Photograph: Joe Penney/Reuters
Before I started falling behind on my "Daily Journal," I made quite a few posts on the Burkina Faso election, which was originally to be held in October, but delayed by a military coup, which didn't last long.  The election was rescheduled for November, and was won in the first round by Roch Marc Kabore with 53% of the vote.

Kabore was favored to win since last summer. Under former president Blaise Compaore, who ruled from 1987-2014, Kabore had a number of top posts, including prime minister (1994-1996), president of the National Assembly (2002-2012), and president of Compaore's ruling party, Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP).

In January 2014, Kabore was among those who opposed the attempted amendment to the constitution to enable Compaore to run for a 3rd term. Kabore resigned from the CDP and started his own party, the People's Movement for Progress (MPP).

In second place in the November election, with 30% of the vote, was former finance minister Zephirin Diabre, the candidate for the CDP's main opposition party, the Union for Progress and Change (UPC). UPC won 19 (of 127) seats in the 2012 legislative elections, positioning it as the 3rd largest party after CDP (which at the time still had Kabore in its top leadership) and CDP's ally, ADF-RDA.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Former prime minister, accused of baby-trafficking, approved to stand in next month's presidential election in Niger

Hama Amadou, a former speaker of the National Assembly arrested in November in connection with a probe into a ring of elites accused of obtaining new-borns from “baby factories” in neighbouring Nigeria.
Niger has a presidential election on February 21. Last Saturday, Niger’s constitutional court approved 15 candidates for the election, "including key opponent Hama Amadou, who was imprisoned two months ago upon return from a year-long exile."

Amadou was arrested on charges of procuring babies from "baby factories" in Nigeria. Amadou has been both an ally and an opponent of president Mahamadou Issoufou. In 2011, he ran for president against Issoufou and placed third (with 20% of the vote); he supported Issoufou against Seyni Oumarou in the run-off, helping Issoufou win his first term as president. He was elected President of the National Assembly as an ally of Issoufou in 2011 and held the post until 2014, but in 2013 he went into the opposition. In August 2014 he fled Niger to escape the baby-trafficking charges, which he says were politically motivated.

The three top candidates from 2011 - Issoufou, Amadou, and Oumarou (all of them former prime ministers) - are considered to be the leading contenders in the upcoming election, with incumbent Issoufou considered the favorite to win. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

You think the Republicans have a lot of candidates?

You know how the longer you wait to do something, the bigger the job becomes, and so you keep delaying, and then the job gets even bigger? Know what I'm talking about? If not, you're not a procrastinator.

My point is - I've been meaning since Thanksgiving to do a big catch-up post for all 16 ECOWAS countries, and every day I've delayed, something has happened in each of those countries. So I give up. Let's just talk about Benin's upcoming election.

Last summer I mentioned there was a Beninois candidate for every card in the deck. Now there are just 48 - four of them didn't do their paperwork right or something. But 48 is still a record! Imagine what that debate stage will look like!

Lionel Zinsou, who has been prime minister for around 6 months, is President Yayi Boni's chosen successor and is considered the frontrunner. Until he was appointed prime minister, Zinsou didn't have a lot of experience in politics - his background is in economics and banking. But that isn't unusual in Benin - Yayi Boni and Nicephore Soglo were both economists and bankers before they became president.

The election is February 28.