The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)

Africa: Power Struggle in Africa in 2011

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Photo: Africa Awards 2011
Divine Ndhlukula, Founder and Managing Director of SECURICO, winner of the 2011 Africa Entrepreneurship Award.

Speaking of power struggle in Africa, the year 2011 will be remembered as the year in which fifteen presidential elections were held, mostly serenely, three dictators were removed forcibly, a new nation was born out of blood, and at least one unsuccessful coup attempt was made.

Africa kicked off the year 2011 with a memorable popular revolution in Tunisia that ousted a filthy rich despot, Zine Ben Ali in December 2010. That successful uprising sparked another one in Egypt ending Hosni Mubarak's three decade rule on February 11. He is now facing charges.

Libya was next when a popular revolt against the 42-year rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi took off on February 15 in Benghazi. Gaddafi's enemies from the West joined in the bloody melee capturing Tripoli in August. Ultimately, on October 20 the tyrant was brutally killed by his captors.

Another strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, after losing in a poorly-conducted election and refusing to hand over power to the victor Alassane Ouattara, was overpowered by French forces allowing his enemies to capture him alive on April 11.Coincidentally, April 11 is the day that Tanzanian troops overthrew Uganda's despot Idi Amin in 1979 who then fled to Saudi Arabia. Gbagbo is facing charges at the International Criminal Court.

In presidential elections, the Central African Republic started on January 23 after numerous postponements in 2010. President François Bozizé retained power for the second term in a remarkably peaceful election despite the usual complaints.

Niger was next on January 31, but the ultimate winner needed a run-off on March 12. Longtime opposition leader, Mahamadou Issoufou beat the ruling party candidate whose boss, the former ousted president, Mamadou Tandja, was in detention.

Uganda's Yoweri Museveni needed suppression and intimidation on February 18 to win 68 pe rcent against a contingent of oppositions leaders including his longtime companion-turned-rival, Colonel Kiiza Besigye. Clashes followed thereafter until Besigye became tired of being beaten by police.

On March 13, Benin held a peaceful election in which President Yayi Boni won his second term easily and peacefully against 13 candidates. Djibouti followed on April 8 re-electing President Ismail Omar Guelleh by 80 percent amidst complaints and a boycott from the opposition. The former intelligence chief, Guelleh inherited power from his uncle in 1999.

Then it was Nigeria on April 16, the most troubled but somehow stable nation in Africa. About 59 percent of Nigerians sustained Goodluck Jonathan leaving scores of people dead. Chad went on to re-elect strongman General Idriss Derby on April 25 who has been in power since a 1990 coup.

The opposition cried foul but there was no room for them as Derby collected 89 percent of votes.

Seychelles, an island country that once depended on Tanzania's military for its survival, had a peaceful election on May 19-21 bringing back James Michel by 55 percent. On July 17 and in a run-off on August 7, the isles of São Tomé and Príncipe brought back their first president, Manuel Pinto da Costa without any chaos. On the same day, August 7, Cape Verde calmly voted for the first time before a run-off on August 21 to elect a new president Jorge Carlos Fonseca.

On September 20, Zambians for the second time in two decades voted out a president from the ruling party when they elected Michael Sata their fifth president. Sata who claims to have an "allergy" to corruption, beat Rupiah Banda decisively.

Cameroon shocked Africa on October 9 when it re-elected Paul Biya with 75 percent of votes. Biya, 78, who recently removed term limit, has been in power since 1982. Liberians got their turn on October 11 but couldn't agree between President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Winston Tubman. So they needed a run-off on November 8 but Tubman and his followers boycotted leaving 91 percent to Johnson Sirleaf.

The Gambia went into elections on November 24 with President Yahya Jammeh declaring that there is no way he could lose the poll unless all Gambians were mad. Amidst suppression and intimidation, he got 72 percent.

Last but not least, on November 27 the Democratic Republic of the Congo had a second election in history which was unfortunately marred by violence. President Joseph Kabila was declared the winner by 49 percent. His opponent Etienne Tshisekedi cried foul and later on sworn himself in.

But Pan-Africanists were disappointed when South Sudan became an independent and very unstable country following a referendum that was supposed to bury Africa's longest civil war. Finally, on December 26, Guinea-Bissau President Malam Bacai Sanha, who is hospitalized in France, survived a coup organized by the navy commander.

Honestly, although a third of the aforementioned power struggle incidents were bloody, in general Africa conducted itself well beyond the stereotypical thinking that elections in Africa must be bloody. Notably, Africa finished off the year three dictators less. Let us hope 2012 will be much better!

Mr Matinyi is a consultant based in Washington, DC

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