Too many Africans don’t trust the manner in which they select their public officials or the officials they select. The trust gap identified in two recent surveys by Afrobarometer goes to the heart of why the establishment of democracy in Africa has been so inconsistent. Flawed elections do not lead to healthy representative democracies. All the more reason to stay engaged in shoring up democracy on the continent.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has erupted in deadly violence following the official announcement that elections that were to be held in November, as stipulated in the country’s constitution, will not take place. As security forces loyal to President Joseph Kabila used guns and clubs against pro-democracy protesters, riots ensued, claiming the lives of as many as 50 people. Kabila is now reiterating his calls for a “national dialogue.” Despite the horrific violence the world must resist Kabila’s cynical overture.
On September 28, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the extension of sanctions on Gabriel Amisi Kumba and John Numbi, following what it termed as “increasing indications that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to suppress political opposition in the country, often through violent means.” Under this sanctions program, all of these two individuals’ assets within U.S. jurisdiction have been frozen and Americans are barred from doing business with them.
“Today’s action builds on the United States’ continued commitment to disrupt this destructive behavior and foster a better and more stable future for the DRC and the Congolese people,” said John E. Smith, Acting OFAC Director, in statement. “Today’s action is not directed at the people of DRC. It is intended to alter the behavior of the targeted individuals.”
Obama and Mahama. The two presidents’ names overlap phonetically as did their message to the 71st gathering of UN General Assembly this week: The road to democracy, however bumpy, is the only path to take.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama likely directed his affirmation of democracy to Africa’s current and aspiring “presidents for life.” Continue reading “UN Speeches Raise Critical Questions for African Democracy”
Tensions already running high in the Democratic Republic of Congo are now resulting in the deaths of peaceful protesters.
President Joseph Kabila is attempting to remain in office beyond his two-term constitutional mandate, which expires December 19th of this year. In response, opposition parties, youth advocating for democratic reforms, and other groups across the DRC came together and organized peaceful protests. The accompanying images show the government’s response.
The crisis heated up over the weekend. On Saturday, the independent elections commission (CENI) formally requested a delay of the presidential vote previously scheduled for November of this year.
In anticipation of this announcement, a National Dialogue Kabila proposed was put on hold. At best, the Dialogue was seen as another delaying tactic but now many parties are refusing to participate amid a flurry of political arrests by the government. In fact, U.S. Envoy to the Great Lakes Region, Tom Perriello sent the following tweet in response to the Kabila government’s actions:
Perriello found himself the target of the political tensions yesterday as he was boarding a flight from Ndjili International Airport in Kinshasa as he was angrily confronted by a Congolese MP and member of Joseph Kabila’s ruling party. According to Adrien Seyes of Afrik.com, the incident was very contentious and on verge of becoming a physical altercation according to witnesses. The US Embassy in Kinshasa condemned the harassment, and has continued to push for the protection of political rights and non-violence in the Congo and put out the following tweet in response:
Today, protestors gathered across the country, peacefully protesting against Kabila’s attempt to remain in power. The peaceful actions of protestors were met by gunshots and tear gas fired by police. Reports indicate that nearly 20 people have been killed by the violence along with countless injuries. Amongst the injured was Martin Fayulu, chairman of an opposition party who coincidentally, had been wrongfully arrested and detained by Kabila’s forces earlier this year.
Images of the protests and fallout from police actions against the protests Monday are included below. Though there are many other photos from Monday’s events, we have not included pictures of those murdered by President Kabila’s security apparatus out of respect for the fallen. Continue reading “The Democratic Republic of Congo at the Razor’s Edge”
The hashtag #MugabeStatue trended to chuckles in Zimbabwe this week, especially among young people. It was prompted by the unveiling of two carved representations of 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe. One likeness was created by sculptor Dominic Benhura and the other by a group of artists from the small town of Mashava.
President Obama says we are pivoting toward Asia. Well, if the rule of law and international standards undergird the United States’ relationship with nations in Asia, why isn’t the same true with regard to U.S. ties with African nations?
Democracy is both a means and an end. In theory, when all citizens have a voice in how they are governed, those elected to govern operate with a greater level of legitimacy and are held to a higher standard of accountability. This in turn promotes good governance, the hallmarks of which are expanding economic opportunity and peaceful resolution of differences. Under these circumstances, democracy can flourish and the virtuous cycle continues.
Once again, the exercise of democracy is resulting in an uneasy challenge to the status quo in an African country. Two days after balloting in Gabon’s presidential election, the incumbent and the main challenger are claiming victory, people are stockpiling food out of concern about possible instability and the UN is urging calm.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest trip to Africa is serving to underscore democracy’s critical role in fighting terror and promoting the long-term stability on the continent.
Kerry announced this week the United States is investing over $25 million to ensure a smooth presidential election process next year in Kenya. His use of the word “investing” was almost certainly deliberate. It signals the United States has a stake in the successful evolution of African democracy over the long term. In business parlance, the U.S. wants a return on its investment. On a practical level, an increasingly stable and secure Kenya, a nation of 50 million people, should serve to strengthen the fragile democracies in neighboring countries.
To Kenya’s south, voters are heading to the polls this weekend in Tanzania. While the ruling CCM party has dominated the country for the 54 years of its independence, current president, Jakaya Kikwete, is honoring constitutional term limits, following his second five-year term. Voters are increasingly impatient with sluggish progress on economic development under the CCM and contested election results could test the country’s overall stability. Continue reading “Kerry Provides Money and Moral Support for Democracy in Africa”