Dar es Salaam. Africa’s democracies, fragile and nascent, have had a very difficult two years. The failure to modernise and liberalise is a big curb on human and social development as repressive regimes are costly to maintain. Not all news is grim.
Angola recently replaced its long-standing president Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979. In September, Angola’s Joao Lourenco was sworn in to replace dos Santos, who ruled the oil-rich country with an iron grip for 38 years.
His party, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, Portuguese Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), annihilated the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (Unita) on the battlefield before executing Jonas Savimbi on the battlefield too.
Survivors of Unita are about 20 per cent strength in Parliament just like their Renamo counterparts in Mozambique.
Next door in Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, now 93, is all set for an unprecedented fourth general election in 2018. Another five-year term will put him at 99 at the end of his term in 2023.
Two vice presidents jostling for power are also competing for the eye of his wife Grace Mugabe widely rumoured to be the power behind the throne. When the West went hard on Mugabe, Zimbabwe broke into two schisms, Shona versus Ndebele a constellation that favours Mugabe who is from the Shona majority tribe.
This week, President Mugabe declared that non-governmental organisations funded by the West will not be allowed to observe next year’s harmonised elections.
Mr Mugabe, who accused NGOs of interfering in Kenya’s disputed elections, said civil society had a habit of working with the opposition to unseat incumbent presidents.
Say no to the whites
“We don’t need them. We are saying no. We are going to have elections in 2018 and we are going to say no to the whites …,” he vowed while speaking to Chinese media in Harare last week.
Up north in Zambia, President Edgar Lungu locked his opponent for engaging in defiance and threatened to expel all Opposition MPs from Parliament.
Zambia has a fairly competitive multi-party system where power has shifted from two ruling parties (UNIP) in 1992 and (MMD) in 2011 to Michael Sata. Zambia also made history when its courts sanctioned the impounding of ill-gotten wealth from former MMD leader Frederick Chiluba.
In South Africa, Jacob Zuma is serving his last term as President and will be replaced as party leader in December.
The ANC, which lost its two thirds majority in 2009, is set to shed more numbers in light of pressure from the left by its allies, the Communist Party, Trade Unions and its defiant opponents, the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have turned Parliament into a sports gym with their red attire and disruption of Parliament proceedings.
In the East African Community, democratic wings have been clipped, first in Uganda where President Museveni’s muscular flattening of Parliament like a pancake is expected to result in amendment of the Constitution to remove the remaining limit on his tenure.
Senior members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM)’s National Executive Council (NEC) over the weekend endorsed the Bill that seeks to scrap the presidential age limit from the Constitution.
A statement issued on Saturday by the NRM’s communications officer Rogers Mulindwa said NEC resolved to remove the presidential age limit by quashing Article 102(b) of the Constitution which caps the upper age for a prospective president at 75 years.
Museveni defends Bill
New Vision of Uganda cited sources saying the President did not respond to the money question, but defended the Bill, saying he needed time to plan for his exit.
“I am a freedom fighter who has fought many wars; I cannot leave things like that. I have to plan,” the source quoted Museveni as saying.
Museveni reportedly said he wants Uganda to set a positive example for the rest of the world. He said age should not be an issue that bothers Ugandans.
“It is not about the age, it is the service you render to people,” Museveni was quoted as saying.
Presidents Museveni, Paul Kagame and Pierre Nkurunziza have reset their horizons on State power for the foreseeable future.
In the DRC, there are no signs that President Joseph Kabila will leave power after his constitutional limit in office expired last year.
Kenya, the liberal bellwether, recently had its presidential election annulled by the Supreme Court, a development that has muddled rather than clarified the political space. One of the risks coming out of the Kenya arose from the Opposition underperforming the ruling party in the August general election. Jubilee came verily close to a two thirds majority in the National Assembly, the de-facto parliament, a development that is likely to encourage Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent, to compromise less.
The Supreme Court appears to have been ill-prepared for the backlash that accompanied the presidential election petition decision famously for pointing out a popular phenomenon in African elections. Writing for the majority Philomena Mwilu, the Deputy Chief Justice, a front pew Catholic, observed that IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, read results before they had officially been received.
Tanzania does not allow for presidential election petitions at all.
President Magufuli has not given any false hopes that he will liberalise further. He has maintained a strong stand on Zanzibar and the local opposition not hesitating to lock them up.
He has also made his point clear on the proposed new constitution -- that it is not his priority.
There are a few outliers in the bigger states. Sudan’s Omar Bashir has cut a deal with the United States to buy him freedom. Sudan’s 40 million people start to make sense when counted together with Egypt’s 95 million and Ethiopia’s 104 million people 90 per cent of the population of the United States. Africans ever the charm are taking things in stride, it is very much still big man rule this corner of the world.