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Obama’s Legacy to Africa: Electricity
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments

By Salem Solomon*

FILE - U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a "soccket ball," has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

FILE – U.S. President Barack Obama bounces a soccer ball with his head at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball, called a “soccket ball,” has internal electronics that allow it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.

Recent U.S. presidents have tried to leave a legacy in Africa in the form of a signature policy achievement.

For Bill Clinton it was the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that opened U.S. markets to certain African exports. For George W. Bush it was the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that poured billions of dollars into AIDS research and treatment.

Barack Obama decided the thing most holding back African development was access to electricity.

“Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age,” he said in a speech in Cape Town in 2013. “It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.”

Fueled by a $7 billion U.S. investment, the Power Africa initiative aims to add more than 30,000 megawatts of electricity generation capacity and 60 million new electric connections for the continent’s homes and businesses.

The project, which relies heavily on the private sector, is one of several reasons observers believe Obama has helped change the narrative on Africa.

From aid to trade

“His biggest single legacy has been, I think, to move the debate and focus on Africa away from aid to more about trade. That has been particularly his focus during the second term,” said Alex Vines, head of the Africa Program at London-based Chatham House. “Looking at the continent of Africa more as a continent of opportunities rather than of humanitarianism, terrorism and disaster.”

The Obama administration also sought to build relationships with the next generation of African leaders through the Young African Leaders Initiative and with current heads of state by holding the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, a first of its kind event that drew 50 African leaders to Washington.

The United States continues to far outpace the rest of the world in terms of traditional aid to Africa. It pays nearly $9 billion per year in development aid to the continent. Britain, the next biggest donor, pays just more than $3 billion per year.

FILE - President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

FILE – President Barack Obama looks at a solar power exhibit during a tour of the Power Africa Innovation Fair, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya. In Nigeria, Lumos Global is among the firms rolling out solar power technology.

But even in the arena of traditional aid, Obama took an approach that offered a hand up instead of a hand out. For example, the Feed the Future initiative launched in 2010 veers away from traditional food aid by assisting farmers with locally adapted technologies and helping to avoid price shocks.

“This is a really important dynamic and finally it takes the U.S. away from the more traditional donor-recipient relationship that really defined the post-Cold War era to one where the U.S. is seeking mutual benefit with African governments and others on the continent,” said Witney Schneidman, senior international adviser for Africa at Covington & Burling LLP and nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Future under Trump

As with many things, President-elect Donald Trump’s views on aid to Africa are complicated. As a candidate in the Republican primaries, one of Trump’s applause lines was a pledge to “stop sending aid money to countries that hate us.”

But during an April 2016 speech on foreign policy he appeared to embrace the U.S. role as a donor saying, “We are a humanitarian nation.”

Observers have speculated that, because of the isolationist thrust of his worldview, Trump is likely to be less interested in aiding Africa than his predecessors.

But others feel that there will not be a major break with Obama’s policies there.

“Some [programs] will fall away, I suppose, under the new incoming Trump administration when it’s in place, others will continue,” Vines said. “My own reading is I don’t think there would be a massive difference between an Obama administration in how it looks at particularly sub-Saharan Africa and the Trump administration and how it looks at sub-Saharan Africa.”

Finally, don’t rule out a major shift in Trump’s perception of Africa. Schneidman pointed out that presidents Clinton and Bush came to the Oval Office with virtually no experience in Africa, but left positive legacies.

“We just don’t know what a president Trump will do on the continent,” Schneidman said. “I think we have to approach it with an open mind, and I think we have to put forward a number of ideas where he could carve out his own legacy.”

*VOA

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The Gambia crisis: Yahya Jammeh says he will step down
January 21, 2017 | 0 Comments
Mr Jammeh had said there were irregularities in the presidential election

Mr Jammeh had said there were irregularities in the presidential election

The Gambia’s long-term leader Yahya Jammeh says he will step down, after refusing to accept defeat in elections.

In an announcement on state TV, he said it was “not necessary that a single drop of blood be shed”.

The statement followed hours of talks between Mr Jammeh and West African mediators. He gave no details of what deal might have been struck.

Mr Jammeh has led the country for 22 years but was defeated in December’s election by Adama Barrow.

Mr Barrow has been in neighbouring Senegal for days and was inaugurated as president in the Gambian embassy there on Thursday.

Troops from several West African nations, including Senegal, have been deployed in The Gambia, threatening to drive Mr Jammeh out of office if he did not agree to go.

Mr Jammeh’s decision to quit came after talks with the presidents of Guinea and Mauritania.

“I have decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians,” he said.

“I promise before Allah and the entire nation that all the issues we currently face will be resolved peacefully.”

Shortly before the TV address, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz said that a deal had been struck and that Mr Jammeh would leave the country. He gave no further details.

Discours d'adieu de Yahya Jammeh.

Posted by Mohamadou Houmfa on Friday, January 20, 2017

Mr Jammeh was given an ultimatum to leave office or be forced out by UN-backed troops, which expired at 16:00 GMT on Friday.

The deadline was set by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), a regional grouping backed by the United Nations.

The new president, Adama Barrow, was sworn-in in Senegal on Thursday

The new president, Adama Barrow, was sworn-in in Senegal on Thursday

The first signs of a breakthrough came on Friday when a senior aide to the new president told the BBC’s Umaru Fofana that Mr Jammeh had agreed to step down.

Mr Jammeh had at first accepted defeat in the election but then reversed his position and said he would not step down.

He declared a 90-day state of emergency, blaming irregularities in the electoral process.

The electoral commission accepted that some of its early results had contained errors but said they would not have affected Mr Barrow’s win.

Mr Jammeh had vowed to stay in office until new elections were held.

*BBC

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The Gambia’s president declares state of emergency
January 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has declared a 90-day state of emergency a day before his official mandate ends.

He decried “extraordinary” foreign interference in his country’s affairs and December’s election.

Yahya Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African country in 1994

Yahya Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African country in 1994

Regional leaders have been unsuccessfully trying to persuade Mr Jammeh to hand over power to Adama Barrow, who won the polls.

The move comes after Nigeria deployed a warship to put further pressure on Mr Jammeh to step down.

Regional bloc Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States, has prepared a Senegal-led force but maintains that military intervention would be a last resort.

In his televised announcement, Mr Jammeh said “any acts of disobedience to the laws The Gambia, incitement of violence and acts intended to disturb public order and peace” are banned under the state of emergency.

He said security forces were instructed to “maintain absolute peace, law and order”.

Earlier, the National Assembly passed a motion condemning what it called the “unlawful and malicious interference” of the African Union and the country’s neighbour, Senegal, in The Gambia’s affairs.

Ministerial resignations

Mr Barrow, a property developer, is meant to be inaugurated as the new president on Thursday. His spokesperson expressed shock and sadness at the declaration, says the BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Banjul, the capital.

It is remains unclear if a curfew is being imposed, our correspondent says.

Mr Jammeh initially accepted the election results but then decided he wanted them annulled after the electoral commission admitted some errors, although it insists this did not affect the final outcome.

The Supreme Court is unable to hear the challenge until May because of a shortage of judges, and Mr Jammeh has said he will not step down until then.

At least three Gambian ministers, including the foreign minister, have resigned in recent days. Thousands of Gambians have also fled to Senegal, and further afield to Guinea-Bissau, amid fears of violence.

Map of The Gambia

BBC Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo says the Nigerian warship is being deployed to put on a show of strength rather than to launch an attack.

A military source says that the vessel – the NNS Unity – is currently sailing off the coast of Ghana.

Senegal is leading Ecowas’ standby regional force and is also preparing its ground troops ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

The Gambia’s small army is not expected to put up a fight in the event of an intervention, but even if it did, its forces would be quickly overrun, our security correspondent says.

In the December polls, Mr Barrow won 43.3% of the vote compared with Mr Jammeh’s 39.6%. A third candidate, Mama Kandeh, got 17.1%.

Yahya Jammeh seized power in the tiny West African country in 1994 and has been accused of human rights abuses, although he has held regular elections.

The African Union has said it will no longer recognise Mr Jammeh’s authority after his term ends. Mr Barrow is currently in Senegal.

Mourning president-elect’s son after dog attack

Habibu BarrowImage copyrightDR ISATOU TOURAY/FACEBOOK

There has been an outpouring of grief over the death of Mr Barrow’s eight-year-old son – and many Gambians on social media have been changing their profile photos to his image to show their sympathy.

Habibu Barrow died in hospital after being bitten by a dog on Sunday at his aunt’s house in Fajara, a coastal resort near Banjul. He was mauled by the dog and sustained a head injury.

Many residences in Fajara, an upmarket area, have security dogs to ward off intruders.

Mr Barrow was unable to attend Monday’s funeral as he intends to remain in neighbouring Senegal until his return on Thursday for his swearing-in. But his second wife Sarjo, Habibu’s mother, was there along with her two other children.

Since Mr Jammeh announced he was contesting the vote on 9 December, Mr Barrow, a devout Muslim with two wives, moved his children to stay with relatives for safety.

*BBC

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West African states prepare to invade Gambia to force Yahya Jammeh to hand power to president-elect Adama Barrow
January 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Adama Barrow greets supporters on the last day of the presidential campaign in Gambia CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Adama Barrow greets supporters on the last day of the presidential campaign in Gambia CREDIT: MARCO LONGARI/AFP

Thousands of people have begun fleeing Gambia amid growing signs that West African states could invade the former British colony within days.

Regional leaders have signalled their determination to mount a rare African defence of democratic principle by using force to ensure that Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s president of 22 years, gives up power following his defeat in an election last month.

Nigeria has reportedly asked British military advisers to assist in planning a “rapid reaction” military incursion into Gambia in order to install Adama Barrow, the election’s surprise winner, as the country’s new president.

Mr Barrow, a former real estate agent who briefly worked as a security guard at an Argos catalogue store while studying in London, was supposed to have been sworn in on Thursday — but Mr Jammeh, having initially conceded defeat, later reversed course and is refusing to stand down.

Mr Barrow left Gambia for neighbouring Senegal at the weekend at the advice of regional leaders, and will not return home until his inauguration until Thursday – perhaps under the escort of West African troops.

The president-elect’s inauguration plans were struck by tragedy after his son Habibu, who was eight, died on the way to hospital on Sunday after being bitten by a dog the previous evening near the capital Banjul, according to the BBC and postings by Gambians on Twitter.

Mr Barrow was unable to return for his son’s funeral, which took place almost immediately, as required by Islamic rite. Pictures posted on Twitter showed what appeared to be Habibu’s casket, covered in a black cotton shroud, being carried through a grove by mourners.

Habibu Barrow is survived by four siblings.

With time for a diplomatic solution rapidly running out leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a 15-state regional bloc, have authorised a military response that has the unofficial blessing of the United Nations Security Council.

Although the proposed mission is likely to be headed by Senegal, Nigerian troops are likely to make up the bulk of the force. The Nigerian government last week authorised generals to mobilise an 800-strong battalion to spearhead the mission.

In a sign of its dwindling diplomatic clout among its former African colonies, Britain has played little role so far in the crisis. Instead, Francois Hollande, the French president, took advantage of Britain’s diminished ambitions to meet with Mr Barrow over the weekend.

However, British officers training the Nigerian army in counter-terrorism operations against the Islamist Boko Haram group have been asked to give logistical and planning support to the mission, regional officials say. It is unclear if the request has been granted.

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh (C) welcoming President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari (R) and President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (L) for talks at the State House in Banjul, Gambia, 13 January 2017 CREDIT: EPA

It is hoped that a military operation could be fairly swift. Mr Jammeh’s army has just 900 soldiers, some of whom were seen partying in the streets after he lost the election.

Regional presidents continue to urge Mr Jammeh, who ousted his internationally-respected predecessor Sir Dawda Jawara in a coup in 1994, to leave office. 

“I dare to hope that African wisdom will convince our brother [to] understand the greater good for the Gambia, which does not need a bloodbath,” said Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the president of Mali.

But Mr Jammeh, seen by critics as a serial human-rights abuser who once vowed to “rule for a billion years with the help of Allah”, has shrugged off the calls. He has instead shut independent radio stations, arrested activists and sent soldiers to storm the electoral commission.

Fearing just such a bloodbath, hundreds of people have begun thronging ferry terminals on the River Gambia every day hoping for safe passage into Senegal. The United Nations refugee agency says it is assessing the situation.

*Telegraph

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Gambia: Exclusive – Nigeria Raises Troops for Gambia, Ready to Remove Yahya Jammeh
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

Photo: Premium Times Nigerian army.

Photo: Premium Times
Nigerian army.

The Nigerian Army has raised an army battalion that would be deployed in troubled Gambia to forcefully remove President Yahya Jammeh from power if he fails to step down on January 19, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today.

The battalion, christened ECOMOG NIBATT 1, was drawn from the Army’s 19th Battalion based in Okitipupa, Ondo State, military insiders have told PREMIUM TIMES.

Personnel were also drawn from other formations and units across the country due to shortage of men at 19 Battalion which has a significant chunk of its troops deployed for internal security task force, Operation Delta Safe.

This newspaper learnt that the Army Headquarters has instructed the nominated officers and men, put at over 800, to immediately report at the Nigerian Army School of Infantry, Jaji, for a crashed course on counter terrorism and counter insurgency.

Our sources said Army Headquarters has also instructed the Army directorates of policy and plans; finance; and logistics to ready funds, arms, ammunition and other logistics for the operation.

The Armoured Corps is also working hard to ready armoured vehicles needed for the task, officials said.

There were suggestions by some of our sources that the Nigerian Air Force and the Navy might deploy men and equipment for the operation as well.

Top military officers said the Nigerian Battalion would be deployed in The Gambia anytime after January 19 if President Jammeh makes real his threat not to step down after the expiration of his tenure.

“This is an emergency operation, but we are ready,” one officer said. “The Nigerian Army is a strong, professional fighting force battle ready at anytime. We are so well structured that we can deploy at the touch of a button.

Photo: Le Pays Yahya Jammeh with the ECOWAS delegation.

Photo: Le Pays
Yahya Jammeh with the ECOWAS delegation.

“We did it in Liberian, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. And Jammeh should know that we are not a joking force. Once we get the all clear from ECOWAS, the AU and the UN to move in, we can pick him up.”

The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had on December 23 put standby military forces on alert.

 On Thursday, Mr. Jammeh said he would not step down before a Supreme Court decision on the disputed election, the BBC reported.

The President, the report said, insisted his cabinet and the National Assembly would remain in place until the Supreme Court rules on his party’s petition.

There is currently shortage of judges in the country to sit on the matter.

The case can only be heard in May if Nigeria agrees to supply judges to the Supreme Court.

West African leaders, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, the chief mediator, are travelling to Gambia on Friday to persuade Mr. Jammeh to accept an “honourable exit plan”.

 The ECOWAS Commission President, Marcel de Souza, said Senegal, The Gambia’s only territorial neighbour, would lead any military operation in the country.

Other West African countries will be mandated to provide troops as well, Mr. De Souza reportedly said.

Mr. Jammeh lost the December 1 2016 Gambia presidential election to opposition candidate, Adama Barrow.

He initially accepted defeat and congratulated Mr. Barrow but changed his mind and decided to challenge the outcome of the election.

He also vowed not to hand over to the winner as expected on January 19.

*Premium Times/AllAfrica

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US Boosts ECOWAS Early Warning Mechanism with ITC Equipment
January 13, 2017 | 0 Comments

IN line with the ECOWAS and United States Government’s partnership to promote peace and security within the region, the U.S government has handed over a consignment of Information Technology and Communication, ITC, equipment which will bolster the Commission’s Early Warning mechanism.

In a brief handover ceremony on 11th January 2017, Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed stated that this gesture will enable the Early Warning Directorate achieve its objectives and mandate.

‘This equipment will enhance the capacity and coordination of National Early Warning and Response Centres in Member States, as well as the collation of relevant data within the Community’, She said.

The Commissioner, used the opportunity to express the gratitude of ECOWAS to the United States government and emphasized the need for the U.S to continue its support for the Commission in this regard.

Derell Kennedo, political officer (Embassy of the U.S-Nigeria) representing the United States Government during the handing over ceremony, expressed the U.S interest in peace and security within the region. He stated that, the peace and stability in West Africa would not only benefit ECOWAS citizens but also the U.S.

Two vehicles were also presented to the ECOWAS Early Warning Directorate during the handover ceremony.

In attendance of the ceremony were the ECOWAS Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Allieu Sesay, Director for Early Warning, Dr. Abdou Lat Gueye, the Director for Political Affairs, Dr.Remi Ajibewa and the Director for Peace-Keeping and Regional Security, Dr. Cyriaque Agnekethom.

*Real News

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Africa’s human rights court and the limits of justice
January 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

Justices Ore and Kioko of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights reflect on the challenges facing the court.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is a tribunal established to ensure the protection of human rights across the continent.

The court recently celebrated its 10th anniversary – a decade that has been filled with challenges. It was originally set up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in November 2006, but, in August 2007, its headquarters moved to Arusha, Tanzania.

Out of the 54 member states of the African Union, only 30 recognise the court. And an even fewer, seven member states, allow NGOs and individuals to file cases. But perhaps, the biggest challenge is that most Africans don’t seem to know the court even exists.

So, has it failed? What has the court accomplished so far? And how will it move forward to guarantee human rights are protected across Africa?

To find out, we sit down with the president and vice president of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Sylvain Ore and Justice Ben Kioko, as they talk to Al Jazeera.

Asked about the effectiveness of the court and whether there was any concrete evidence as to what it has achieved for member states, Justice Sylvain Ore believes one of the biggest accomplishments of the court thus far is in favour of freedom of speech.

He specifically mentions Norbert Zongo, a Burkinabe investigative journalist who was murdered in Burkina Faso, then ruled by a military regime in 1998. It has been 18 years since his death and the case remains unsolved, but in 2015, after an appeal by Zongo’s family, the court ordered the government reopen the investigation.

“Fortunately, Burkina Faso has complied with the order we made … with regards to the investigation, it is still ongoing,” says Justice Ore.

We ask Justice Ore about one of the longest ongoing human rights violations in African history, Darfur, and what is being done in regards to Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He’s been charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. He visited South Africa, a signatory to the ICC, in June 2015, but the government ignored the court’s arrest warrant and allowed him to leave the country. It was widely seen as a public display of disrespect for the ICC.

“It’s a political decision of the South African state. I cannot really have an opinion on this because I do not know the circumstances that lead the South Africans to comply with the request of the ICC,” says Ore.

How, in actuality, can the court do its job effectively, if it is ultimately at the mercy of member states giving up political power in relation to cases, such as Omar al-Bashir’s?

“Our mandate is not different from the European court on human rights. We do not have a force, like a police force, who oblige the states to comply. But I think that responsible states, with the vision to respect human rights, are the states that will comply with the decision of the international court,” Ore says.

When it comes to enforcing necessary decisions and rulings, Justice Ben Kioko echoes Ore’s comments, stating that without member states compliance, nothing can be done.

“Any international court that you can think of, for example, the International Criminal Court, it is funded by the state parties and it requires the cooperation of states, even to arrest individuals,” says Kioko. “The International Court of Justice is funded by member states. So, most of the international and regional courts are based on the same concept. You are funded by member states, but at the same time, you are given independence and impartiality… And independence is very important to judges.”

*Al Jazeera

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ECOWAS holds off on troop deployment to The Gambia
January 8, 2017 | 0 Comments

West Africa leaders not ready to send soldiers as they negotiate with outgoing President Jammeh to relinquish power.

Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a voting station [Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters]

Yahya Jammeh holds a copy of the Quran while speaking to a poll worker at a voting station [Thierry Gouegnon/Reuters]

West African leaders are still pursuing mediation to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia where President Yahya Jammeh refused to accept defeat in an election last month.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told reporters on Saturday after a meeting among regional leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra that regional bloc ECOWAS did not yet intend to deploy its standby military force in the country.

“We are committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power in The Gambia. We will continue to pursue that for now,” said Sirleaf who chairs the 15-member body.

Asked if the regional group would deploy a standby force soon, she said “no”, adding that ECOWAS was closely monitoring proceedings in The Gambia’s Supreme Court where Jammeh is challenging the poll result.

Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said ECOWAS would hold a meeting on Monday in Abuja to discuss further steps.

“There are some disturbing information the [Nigerian] president [Muhammadu Buhari] is hearing which he needs to verify and the Abuja meeting will take a final decision,” he said, without elaborating.

Buhari has been appointed by ECOWAS as a mediator.

Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the December 1 election. But a week later he reversed his position, vowing to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.

Diplomats are concerned the impasse over the poll could escalate quickly into violence.

*Reuters/Al Jazeera

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Are more African leaders ready to give up power?
December 29, 2016 | 0 Comments
Adama Barrow's win in The Gambia has inspired many in Africa that a ballot revolution is possible

Adama Barrow’s win in The Gambia has inspired many in Africa that a ballot revolution is possible

It has been a mixed electoral year in Africa, with peaceful handovers of power, alongside allegations of rigging and incumbents refusing to accept defeat. The BBC’s Dickens Olewe looks at the state of democracy in Africa.

The unexpected outcome of the election in The Gambia is by far the biggest political story of the year.

Long-serving strongman President Yahya Jammeh was defeated in an open and free election and willingly conceded to the opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

Even though Mr Jammeh subsequently rescinded his concession and has challenged the results in court, this has failed to dampen the symbolism of his defeat and the confidence it has given to many in Africa that a ballot revolution is possible.

But did this moment, widely celebrated across the continent, represent a political trend?

Two trajectories

“We have two trajectories, one in which autocratic leadership is becoming more entrenched and it is undermining independence of electoral commission and in another where there is democratic consolidation and leaders are more willing to step down like in countries like Nigeria,” Nic Cheeseman, associate Professor in African Politics at Oxford University, told the BBC.

He says that African countries need to build institutions and insulate them from the influence of political leaders.

Electoral commissions also need to be well funded and protected by the law and allowed to be in charge of their own activities, like registering of voters, he says.


Key African elections in 2016:

February:

  • Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni won a fifth term in office in an election marred by violence and allegations of ballot fraud.
  • Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou won a second term after his main opponent Hama Amadou, who is serving time in jail, pulled out of the runoff.

April:

  • Chad’s President Idriss Deby beat his opponent Saleh Kebzabo to win a fifth term in office.

August:

  • Gabon’s election was marred with violence and vote-rigging. President Ali Bongo won by 6,000 votes, after officially getting 95% of the vote on a turnout of 99% from his home province of Haut-Ogooue.

December:

  • The Gambia’s President Yayha Jammeh lost to property developer Adama Barrow and conceded. He later withdrew the concession alleging that there had been voter fraud. He has since gone to the Supreme Court to challenge the results.
  • Ghana’s President John Mahama became the first incumbent to lose an election since Ghana returned to democracy. Opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo also made history by winning on his third time of trying.

In Ghana, The Gambia and Nigeria last year, the electoral commissions received a lot of plaudits for overseeing free, fair and verifiable elections.

Despite the political challenges, electoral commissions have to work to earn their credibility.

Demystifying elections

Dennis Kadima, an election observer at the Electoral Institute for Southern Africa (EISA) recalls that leading up to South Africa’s local elections in August the electoral commission was facing a crisis of confidence but ended up conducting a free and fair election, a situation that has reversed its public perception.

Political competition in most African countries is seen as a winner-takes-all competition.

Michela Wrong’s book It’s Our Turn to Eat about corruption in Kenya captures perfectly the overall guiding reason for winning power.

Ken Opalo, from Georgetown University in the US, says there needs to be a process of demystifying elections.

“African countries need to get out of the business of treating each election as a one-off event.”

He adds that allowing for continuous registration of voters and staggering some elections would help manage the perceived stakes.

Only seven countries in Africa are listed as “free” by the 2016 report of the think-tank Freedom House.

Map

Securing the vote

It is often in the vote-counting process that opposition parties say they have been cheated.

In Kenya, the ruling party recently defeated the opposition by passing a law allowing the use of a manual electoral system in next year’s poll.

Counting votesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionGhana’s election was widely praised, with the incumbent accepting defeat

The opposition says the push to use a manual system is a calculated plan to allow vote-rigging by manipulating the voter registration process, and providing for a less foolproof system for voter identification during voting and an easily manipulated system during transmission of votes.

This is denied by the government, which says it is a necessary back-up in case the electronic system fails.

“Part of the reason why it was so much harder to rig in Ghana is because results were announced at the local level – polling stations and counties,” says Mr Opalo.

This allowed for independent verification by news organizations. Disaggregated tallying should be non-negotiable.”

Mr Cheeseman, however, says posting party agents at thousands of polling stations across the country is an expensive undertaking which most political parties cannot afford.

Keep the internet on

He says that governments can easily undermine this aspect of vote watching by shutting off the internet.

Several governments including Uganda, Chad, Niger and Gabon switched off the internet during elections this year, claiming that they wanted to stop the spread of falsehoods.

Mr Cheeseman says that limiting internet access also means stopping the necessary transfer of voting information through internet-dependent applications, which makes life more difficult for election monitors.

He proposes that it might be an important step for election observers to insist on an open and free internet as a key aspect of ensuring a free and fair election.

Mr Kadima says that EISA has a benchmark of what constitutes a free and fair election: “We look at voter registration and work with political parties, civil societies and judiciaries” to ensure that standards are met.

‘Pride in good elections’

Kamissa Camara, West and Central Africa officer at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), says that beyond the use of foolproof electoral systems, positive influences could also be playing a part in helping countries in West Africa hold credible elections.

Protester holding anti-Kabila bannerImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe mandate of DR Congo President Joseph Kabila expired in December but he has been unable to organise elections to find a replacement

“We have seen several peaceful elections in Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso and in Mali and you see people taking pride in holding good elections and that desire to hold a good election is spreading.”

“Democracy is making headway in West Africa thanks to shared positive expertise,” she adds.

Mr Kadima says that in assessing the state of democracy in Africa, it is important not to forget that there are 54 disparate countries on the continent and it would be unfair to compare them.

“All these countries have different histories. Some are evolving while others are in a cycle but one thing is for certain, as we are seeing in DR Congo, the resilience and aspiration of the people for change will never die.”

As for what to expect next year, Mr Opalo says the Kenya election is the one to watch.

He projects that there will be some violence but adds that it would be a reflection of what is at stake, rather than a descent into complete chaos and state failure.

He also says it would be interesting to follow developments in Rwanda, where President Paul Kagame is expected to run for a third term.

*BBC

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President Koroma warns officials to put house in order
December 29, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Mohamed Fajah Barrie*

President Koroma has warned that no one will be protected by Fifa

President Koroma has warned that no one will be protected by Fifa

President Ernest Bai Koroma has given Sierra Leone’s football guardians until March 2017 to resolve their differences.

President Koroma waded into the country’s football feud by lashing out against “unproductive squabbles in football”.

His dramatic intervention comes just over a month after Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura visited Freetown and announced a roadmap designed to bring peace between Sierra Leone’s warring football factions.

Sierra Leone FA (SLFA) president Isha Johansen is locked in a bitter fight with various club administrators, particularly over two issues – her organisational reforms and conveying of the SLFA congress.

The SLFA has also not been able to organise a league this year and a breakaway league organised by nine out of 14 Premier League clubs is ongoing.

President Koroma’s comments came during a popular annual football competition carrying his name in his birth place of Makeni at the weekend.

“I’ve been trying to solve the issues for some time… there are no big issues other than, egos and selfish interests,” the Head of State said.

“This should not stop us from looking at the bigger picture which is to promote our talented young men and women.

“I hope the impasse will come to an end very soon.”

President Koroma, who has attempted several times to deal with the malaise infecting his country’s national game, did not say what he would do if nothing has changed by March 2017.

Crucially, though, he warned that no one will be protected by Fifa – a clear reference to Fifa’s stance that government should not interfere in football matters.

The world governing body has made no secret of its backing for Johansen, the only female football president in Africa.

President Koroma said: “Let nobody feel that he or she will continue to enjoy the protection of Fifa because when the Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura came to Freetown recently, she made it very clear that it’s time the stakeholders of football in the country sat down and sorted out the issues.

“It will be in the interest of the country to do so immediately because we have young talent to develop.”

*BBC

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Female Parliamentarians from across Africa meet in Nairobi to discuss new policies on property rights
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) hosting the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment in Kenya

 

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi

Nairobi, Kenya 20 December 2016 – The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) convened female Parliamentarians from 12 African countries in Nairobi, Kenya, to share perspectives on strategies for female MPs to promote legal reforms which ensure that women’s property rights are included in all African legal frameworks. The meeting provided an occasion to discuss and address the current African property rights landscape with special attention given to the role of MPs in advancing property and inheritance laws for women across Africa.

The major recommendations from the meeting were, among others:

 

–              Ensuring the Harmonization of laws and reviewing and repealing discriminatory laws, by working on amending, passing or repealing necessary laws. Lack of staffing was identified as a major constraints and MPs requested the support of the Bank to develop capacity building program on research; analysis and training on the content of current laws and the types of reforms that would be considered best practices;

 

–              Funding legislation on women and agriculture at the regional and national level;

–              Promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries and ensure that Governments collect systemic sex-disaggregated data, particularly related to land and property rights. The meeting underscored the need for the African Development Bank to support collection of gender specific data;

–              Highlighting specific gender targets in Ministry of agriculture strategy;

–              Financing entrepreneurship in Agriculture;

–              Zimbabwe is establishing a women’s bank and wants AfDB’s support in making sure it is a success;

–              MPs identified the need to mechanize agriculture so that women can do a better job of feeding their families and realizing better yields;

–              Information sharing and sensitization;

–              Access to Justice/Legal aid: When women’s rights are violated, they are too poor and don’t have the means to go through extended litigation. MPs should fight for legal aid provisions through the parliament.  Other support networks of women lawyers should be explored and capacitated.

The Bank and WIP will carefully consider the points raised and identify that will inform an action plan that will be ready by January 2017. The outcome of the meeting in Nairobi will lead up to the discussion during the WIP Global Summit 2017. Members of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment from all regions of the world are expected to attend this high-level Summit.

This event was the first meeting of the WIP Council on Economic Empowerment and brought together active female Parliamentarians from the WIP network in Africa, academia and other research institutions, government officials, business leaders and members of CSOs to discuss and provide innovative solutions to the challenges related to women’s property rights, in order to achieve women’s economic development. The purpose of the WIP Council is to address issues (legal and institutional), share best practices, stimulate dialogue, shape agendas, advocate and drive legislative reforms at the national and regional level. Council Members will meet annually at WIP Summits, targeted African Development Bank Annual Meetings as well as during targeted regional meetings.

Gabriel Negatu, Director General of the AfDB’s Eastern Africa Regional Center (EARC) provided welcoming remarks, highlighting that “Africa has witnessed significant progress on gender equality. Despite this progress, there are still areas such as the legal status and land and property rights, where more is yet to be done”. The AfDB believes that the continent’s long-term competitiveness depends on how well Africa empowers its women. In many African countries, however, unequal access to property, discriminatory laws including land and tenure rights, and discrimination in the labor market, and business-related obstacles hinder women from contributing even more to their countries’ growth and well-being. According to the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) of the OECD, which classifies countries around the world according to their level of discrimination, only 20% of all countries in the low discrimination category are African; while an overwhelming 82% are found in the very high discrimination category. We should also recognize that Africa is doing better in using the potential of women in politics with 16 of the 46 countries with 30 or more women in parliament being African, including apart from the world champion Rwanda, countries like Sudan (30%), Tunisia and Algeria (31%); Ethiopia (39%); Mozambique (40%) and Senegal (43%). The Bank is very active in moving the agenda of women’s economic empowerment and today, we will speak about some of the initiatives we have put in place to advance this agenda. We must take advantage of partnerships to ensure we remove these obstacles and invest in gender equality, hence the critical importance of partnering with MPs given their unique role in passing/advancing laws that ensure gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.

 

Florence Mutua, member of the Kenyan parliament pointed out that: ”We cannot talk about creating the necessary legislations and policies to grant women their rights without also discussing structures that empower women access to resources and more importantly, property. The unequal ratio of ownership between men and women contributes substantially to this condition. Lack of rights to tenure or ownership render many women unable to protect themselves, and this in turn prevent access to credit through lack of collateral, thus reinforcing the control that men traditionally have over the household and its dependents. These underlying issues are the main reason that we need laws that specifically speak to access to and ownership of property.  In Africa, only a handful of countries including Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and more recently Kenya have laws that speak to women’s access to property. It took Kenya more than 50 years to come up with the Matrimonial Property law that gives women rights to property ownership in marriage, this even against the backdrop of one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world with regards to gender equality”.

 

The Special Envoy on Gender and Vice-President of the African Development Bank, Geraldine J Fraser Moleketi, explained that: It is widely acknowledged that property rights and inheritance laws directly impact women’s economic livelihoods. This is particularly true for women in agriculture, where land is a central asset for crop production, animal rearing, and other income generating activities. Secure land rights allow women to realize food security for themselves and their families, to leverage land assets as capital for forward looking investments, and to generate wealth. Strengthening women’s property and inheritance rights is critical to empowering their full economic and social potential.  Lack of property ownership and asset control prevents women from realizing their full potential in the agricultural sector. Studies have shown that women’s rights over land are inferior to those of men. The strength of one’s property rights defines the incentives to invest time, energy, and other resources into any business venture. Absent land title or other assets, banks will not lend to female famers who seek to grow their agricultural business. As indicated in a study conducted by the Bank entitled: ‘Legal Frameworks and Women’s Voice and Agency in Africa’. The study suggests that 16 countries still create barriers to women’s access to financial services, be it in opening bank accounts, or applying for national identity cards; 17 countries still do not have legislation to protect women from domestic violence, leaving them vulnerable and restricting their voice and agency.

The Special Envoy incites Parliamentarians to be bolder as they have the responsibility and the ability to accomplish much for women in economic sectors (i.e. agriculture), through a variety of mechanisms. These mechanisms include: (1) review and repeal of discriminatory laws; (2) promotion of better data collection through relevant ministries; (3) insistence on specific gender targets; (4) financing entrepreneurship in agriculture; (5) information dissemination and legal aid.

The AfDB strongly believes in the critical role of Members of Parliament particularly in advocating for the legal reforms that will benefit women, including in their quest to access finance. The Bank is also working with a number of parliamentary networks such as WIP to ensure MPs receive the support required to tackle some of the identified challenges. The Special Envoy concludes by appealing to all the legislator to help Governments to push to push and reform discriminatory legislations and help effect legal and policy reforms for gender equality. Only when women are able to follow their dreams freely, Africa reach its full potential.

 

 

 

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Gambia: Buhari, other West African leaders cannot intimidate me – Jammeh
December 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

By *

The Gambian President, Yahya Jammeh, has hit out at regional mediators urging him to step down, saying he will not be intimidated.

President Jammeh had earlier conceded defeat in the election, after a 22-year-rule, but recanted a week later, asking for fresh polls to be conducted by a “god-fearing and independent electoral commission.”

His decision not to accept the result has drawn condemnation worldwide including from the UN, ECOWAS, and the U.S.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Presidents Ernest Koroma, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and John Mahama of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana respectively led an ECOWAS delegation to visit Mr. Jammeh last week Tuesday.

The West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, had called on him to honour his initial pledge to accept electoral defeat.

The leaders are not expected to reveal the details of the of the mediation until all talks are concluded. However, observers believe apart from asking Mr. Jammeh to leave office, the West African leaders are also trying to save him and his loyalists from prosecution after leaving office.

ECOWAS had said military intervention might be a possibility if diplomatic efforts failed to persuade Mr. Jammeh to leave office.

Mr. Jammeh has launched a court action to annul the vote after the electoral commission changed some results.

In a 45-minute speech at the African Bar Association on Tuesday night, Mr. Jammeh defended his position, saying West African leaders had violated the ECOWAS principle of non-interference.

“Who are they to tell me to leave my country?” he said during his televised speech.

“I will not be intimidated by any power in this world. I want to make sure justice is done.

“I’m a man of peace, but I cannot also be a coward. I am a man of peace but that does not also mean that I will not defend myself and defend my country and defend my country courageously, patriotically and win.”

The BBC’s Umaru Fofana in Gambia’s capital, Banjul, says it was Mr. Jammeh’s first public reaction to last week’s intervention by ECOWAS leaders. The Gambian leader used the opportunity to reiterate his call for fresh elections as the only way to resolve the impasse.

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

West African leaders met President Jammeh (C) in Banjul last week

Some analysts have suggested that reports that Mr. Jammeh could face prosecution were behind his refusal to leave office

Human rights groups have accused the Gambian leader of committing serious abuses against opponents during his 22-year rule.

The Gambia has not had a smooth transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1965.

*Premium Times

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