Regional Stability

What (else) to Expect in Africa in 2016?

“Africa” written in the evening sky in Malawi

This article was originally published by ISS Africa on 12 January 2016.

Africa starts the New Year with many burning issues that escalated in 2015 and need urgent action. The crisis in Burundi, where grave human rights violations are continuing, and the war in South Sudan are the two most pressing among these.

This year will also see a number of important elections taking place in Africa. Uganda’s presidential polls are being held next month, and those scheduled for the Democratic Republic of Congo later this year will also be top of mind for most Africa watchers.

It will also be a very challenging year for Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, who will now have to make good on his 2015 election promises.

This includes effectively dealing with terror group Boko Haram and bringing back the kidnapped Chibok girls. Africa’s most populous nation will also look to him to continue the fight against corruption and boost economic development, despite the slump in the oil price.

But what are we missing, beyond the big newsmakers?

In 2016, we should watch for surprises from unexpected quarters. One of these might be from Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe, who turns 92 next month, is not immortal – even if his supporters vow to push him onto the stage in a wheelchair to celebrate his victory at the next party elections in 2019.

Thailand: Conflict Alert

Yingluck Shinawatra at the 2012 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. Image: Wikimedia.

The campaign by anti-government protesters to derail the 2 February election raises prospects of widespread political violence, and scope for peaceful resolution is narrowing. Protests may aim to provoke a military coup, or encourage a judicial coup. If protesters succeed in their bid to delay the poll and replace the elected caretaker government with an appointed council, others who demand to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed franchise are likely to resist. Competing Thai elites – with mass backing – disagree fundamentally about how political power should be acquired and exercised. The election, and the opposition to it, crystallises the dilemma in reaching a new consensus on Thailand’s political order: will government be legitimised by voters or by traditional institutions such as the monarchy and the military?


The Imperial Dream of the Muslim Brotherhood

Pro-Mursi groups and Muslim Brotherhood militias attack anti-Morsi protestors at the presidential palace in Egypt.

The end will justify the means to unite the Islamic peoples into a world of virtue and prosperity to where the Muslim Brotherhood says that it will bring them. Egypt is their launching platform. The entire Islamic world is their objective.

If they were running for office in the United States or any European country on their economic platform of job creation, the sanctity of private property, and a social safety net, they will likely win. It all sounds perfect. Then, you learn that you have just voted for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Members of the movement come from the upper levels of Egyptian society. They are the businessmen, doctors, university professors, military officers, and other professionals. Over their eighty four year history, they have infiltrated every area of government, education, and industry.

If its economic policies are all there is about the movement, it would pose no threat in the public mind. What does frighten so many is the secrecy that shields the organization from scrutiny and the negative propaganda spread by worried authoritarian regimes. Under such circumstances, it is understandable that the attacks by various governments would have forced the Brotherhood to protect itself beneath a cloak of secrecy.

They have grown in societies that are authoritarian, corrupt, and have shown little inclination to invest in the development of the society. Saudi Arabia has a quarter of its youth unemployed in spite of the wealth generated by the vast oil resources. Beyond the petroleum industry, the Kingdom has done little to expand its economy in order to absorb the coming generation: and that is true of most of the region where sixty-five percent of the population is under the age of twenty-nine years.

Under the Radar: the Crisis in Madagascar

Rally against Andry Rajoelina's installation
Rally against Andry Rajoelina’s installation. Photo: r1_lita/flickr.

Isolated for around 80 million years, the island of Madagascar is home to hundreds of animals and plants that exist nowhere else in the world. A biodiversity hotspot of exotic fauna and flora, the Indian Ocean island is often likened to paradise. Yet Madagascar continues to be rocked severe economic and political crises – problems that remain largely unnoticed by Western audiences.

Ever since the 2009 ouster of its democratically elected president Marc Ravalomanana, Madagascar has been paralyzed by a political stalemate that has brought the already impoverished island of 20 million people to the brink of economic collapse. Although progress made in recent reconciliation talks has led to Western donors to gradually resume development aid, the road back to democracy promises to be a rocky one.

The political upheavals began after dissident army officers took power in what was regarded by the international community as a coup d’état. Officially, President Ravalomanana stepped down following violent street protests led by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina – a self-made dairy tycoon – and handed power to the military which in turn transferred its authority to Rajoelina. This prompted Rajoelina to declare himself as president of the “High Transitional Authority” (HAT) and consolidate a tight grip on the country’s politics. Ravalomanana, by contrast, fled into self-imposed exile in South Africa and was prevented twice from returning to Madagascar where he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for allegedly ordering the killing of protestors.

Gaddafi: Deluded Until the End

Deposed Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Photo:Mr_CRO/flickr

The Rebels are almost victorious, but Darth Gaddafi has missed his chance at a final-scene reconciliation

The world media is abuzz: the Libyan conflict is almost over.   And the international community hasn’t been so united behind a ‘rebel’ victory since the fall of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi.  Nevertheless, while fireworks will surely rain over Tripoli this week, much like the final scenes of the classic 1980 film, Libyan citizens are unlikely to receive the same sense of closure as Han, Luke and Leia.

As the conclusion to the ordeal plays itself out, Darth Gaddafi has failed to demonstrate to the audience that there was a little ‘good’ in him after all. It appears that there will be no final conciliation scene where he poetically realizes the error of his ways and cleanses his tortured soul. Faced with defeat and presumably hidden somewhere in Tripoli, he has remained  defiant. He has refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and their arrest warrant against him for crimes against humanity. He has continued to categorically deny the atrocities committed by the armed forces under his command.  And he has consistently remained deluded as to the will of the Libyan people.

Rather than admit the evil of his ways, he has retained an Idi Amin-like stubbornness to the bitter end – announcing once again last night that he will fight until ‘martyrdom or victory’. While he remains hidden, he remains free. And therefore closure will not be possible for the Libyan people just yet – at least not until he is captured and forced to accept the consequences of his crimes.