African Nations Again Unite to Uphold Democracy

The roller-coaster ride of Gambian democracy ended last week with longtime strongman Yahya Jammeh’s exit and exile.

The process was not perfect. It appears Jammeh was allowed to keep a fleet of luxury cars and an unknown but apparently staggering amount of cash he is said to have looted from this small, impoverished country. Nonetheless, Gambians have a chance to establish a lasting democracy and other African nations seem to have their backs in that endeavor.

An unsettling series of ups and downs followed the December 1 election. Jammeh said he would agree to step down if he were not re-elected and even conceded to former real estate agent Adama Barrow, declaring in a statement December 3, “I wish him all the best and I wish all Gambians the best.” Jammeh. In the days that followed, a number of opposition figures were released from jail. Continue reading “African Nations Again Unite to Uphold Democracy”

Kabila Hunkers Down in his Empire of Kleptomania Ahead of Constitutional End of Term Monday

Ever since winning a second full term in a universally discredited election in 2011, Democratic Republic of the Congo President Joseph Kabila has been doing everything he could to ensure the election of his successor, scheduled for this fall, would not take place. A story published by Bloomberg News today helps explain why: Kabila and his family have been looting the country.

Bloomberg News, with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, traced the Kabilas’ interests by amassing an archive of hundreds of thousands of pages of corporate documents. Given that so much of the DRC’s economy is informal and cash-based and transactions are notoriously opaque, it is impossible to determine the exact value of the illicit Kabila business empire. However, the documents that were obtained show the Kabilas have built a network of businesses that reaches into every corner of the DRC’s economy and enriched themselves with perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. Continue reading “Kabila Hunkers Down in his Empire of Kleptomania Ahead of Constitutional End of Term Monday”

Ghana’s Democracy Triumphs in Latest Presidential Vote

Ghana remains the beacon of hope for democracy in Africa. President John Mahama made a gracious speech conceding to long-time rival Nana Akufo-Addo and pledging a peaceful and stable transition December 10, continuing a 25-year democratic tradition.

The campaign was hard-fought, sometimes bitter, and close. This was Akufo-Addo’s third run for the presidency and a rematch of the hotly-contested race of 2012. Tensions were high for nearly three days as procedural snafus in some areas and a close vote delayed the official announcement of the results of the December 7 balloting. However, both men’s principled expressions of commitment to democracy fortified Ghanaians’ confidence in continuing on the path leading to stability and economic opportunity.   Continue reading “Ghana’s Democracy Triumphs in Latest Presidential Vote”

Elections in Gambia and Ghana Offer a Glimmer of Hope for African Democracy

After over 20 years of repressive rule, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh accepted defeat at the polls December 2. The highly unexpected development was a morsel of good news for African democracy and it thrilled Gambians.

“We have our country back,” the New York Times quoted taxi driver Modu Ceesay’s ecstatic proclamation. “This is our country, and now we have it.” Continue reading “Elections in Gambia and Ghana Offer a Glimmer of Hope for African Democracy”

U.S. and China Forging Bonds with Africa’s Future Leaders

Voting and governing are two critical but distinct components of democracy, just as vision and execution are elemental to business success. A feature in the New Republic this week provides a hopeful but instructive perspective on U.S. efforts to groom Africans who will soon take key leadership roles in their countries.

Democracy was in full bloom in Africa in the 1990s but it since stagnated in too many countries. Even in countries long regarded as democratic success stories such as Ghana and South Africa, corruption remains a serious problem. In Burkina Faso, Benin, and Nigeria, newly elected leaders face daunting challenges to deliver better governance and improvements in daily life. Democracy’s long-term prospects in Africa depend not only on historic elections and enlightened politicians but also on the individual commitment of thousands of people to become fully-engaged citizens who strive to make public and private institutions more competent and accountable. This will enable aspiring business people to thrive and fuel home-grown economic development and opportunity. Continue reading “U.S. and China Forging Bonds with Africa’s Future Leaders”

Today’s Reported Murder of a Priest the Latest Sign of the DRC in Crisis

The BBC is reporting today that a priest was murdered in the city of Lubumbashi. While many details about the killing are unknown, it could be another sign that President Joseph Kabila’s machinations to postpone elections for up to two years are plunging the country into a state of violent uncertainty.

According to the BBC, Father Joseph Mulimbi Nguli was shot dead in a relative’s home by men wearing ski masks. The archdiocese of Lubumashi and the city’s police chief are calling for an investigation of this audacious killing. Continue reading “Today’s Reported Murder of a Priest the Latest Sign of the DRC in Crisis”

A Looming Test for Ghana’s Democracy

Ghana is often hailed as one of African democracy’s success stories. For over 25 years there have been regular elections with peaceful transitions from one major political party to another. In a little over a month, however, Ghana’s democracy could face its most serious test in years.

Not long ago, we noted the comments of President John Mahama before the United Nations General Assembly in which he gently told the international community to back off from scrutiny of his country’s democracy. There are reasons for his apparent defensiveness.  There is mounting evidence that public discontent coupled with balloting procedure shortcomings could make for a tense and uncertain situation.  Continue reading “A Looming Test for Ghana’s Democracy”

Statement from Rick Gittleman on Extension of Sanctions to Additional Officials in the DRC

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.”

Continue reading “Statement from Rick Gittleman on Extension of Sanctions to Additional Officials in the DRC”

UN Speeches Raise Critical Questions for African Democracy

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”

The Democratic Republic of Congo at the Razor’s Edge

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:

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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:us-embassy-on-perriello

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.

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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”