2 January 2018

Africa: Violence, Legal Wrangling, Resignations Characterise Africa's Politics in 2017

Gambia's former leader Jammeh goes into exile

On January 20, Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled Gambia for 22 years, was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea, ending a post-election political standoff that threatened to provoke a regional military intervention when he clung to power.

Jammeh accepted to step down under pressure from West African nations to accept that he lost a December 2016 election to President Adama Barrow.

Barrow won the election, but Jammeh contested the results as calls grew for him to be prosecuted for alleged abuses during his time in power. The situation became so tense that Barrow had to be inaugurated in neighbouring Senegal at the Gambian Embassy.

Shortly after Jammeh's departure, Barrow's adviser Mai Ahmad Fatty announced that more than $11m (£8.8m) was missing from country's state coffers.

Somalia's Abdullahi Farmajo chosen as president

Somalia's MPs on February 8, elected a Somali-US national Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed as the country's new president in a vote held in an aircraft hangar.

Incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat in the election when he failed to get the plurality of votes needed to win the second round of voting.

This was only the second smooth transfer of power since Somalia's first direct elections in 1960. Incumbent President Aden Abdulle Osman graciously ceded the 1967 election to Abdirashid Ali Shermarke.

Somalia's democratic trailblazing in Africa came to a halt in 1969, however, when Gen. Mohamed Siad Barre seized power in a coup. Siad Barre ruled the country until his ouster in 1991, when a civil war ensued.

Rwanda's Kagame re-elected with 99% of vote

Incumbent leader Paul Kagame swept to a landslide victory in Rwanda's presidential election, securing a third term in office and extending his 17 years in power.

He won almost 99% of votes cast in an election that fielded only a single opposition candidate, Frank Habineza, and an independent.

The August 2017 election came after a constitutional amendment, which ended a two-term limit for presidents and theoretically permits Kagame to remain in power until 2034. The amendment was approved by 98% of voters.

Kagame, a commander who led Tutsi rebel forces into Rwanda to end the 1994 genocide, won the last election in 2010 with 93 percent of the vote.

Anti-Gnassingbe protests against 50-year dynasty in Togo

The 50th year of father-and-son rule in Togo witnessed series of mass protests, with tens of thousands of demonstrators saying enough is enough.

Anti-government marches were been held across the country since August 2017, demanding the exit of President Faure Gnassingbe, who has ruled for more than 15 years.

Gnassingbe took power in 2005 after the death of his father General Gnassingbe Eyadema, who had been at the helm for 38 years.

Opposition parties have persistently called for the introduction of a maximum two-term presidential mandate and a two-round voting system.

They want the measures applied retroactively to prevent Gnassingbe from standing at the next two elections in 2020 and 2025, and potentially staying in power until 2030.

Angola gets new president after 38 years

Angola's Jose Eduardo dos Santos, after 38 years as president, quite the country's top job September 26, but not without making sure he and his family continue to maintain control.

Following the August president election, former Defense Minister Joao Lourenco was sworn in to office, but only after Dos Santos passed decrees shoring up his power and leaving doubts about how much room the new president will have to manoeuvre.

The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has governed since Angola's hard-fought independence from Portugal in 1975, with Dos Santos taking power in 1979.

Though seldom seen in public, Dos Santos, 75, had been a looming presence in daily life for as long as most Angolans can remember, maintaining fierce control throughout its devastating civil war and a short-lived oil boom.

Violence, boycotts characterise Kenya's presidential race

Kenya's presidential race meant to end democratic crisis instead pushed the country further into political chaos and ethnic divisions.

The leadership contest was rife with controversy amid allegations of vote tampering and sporadic bouts of violence in opposition strongholds.

The Supreme Court in September nullified the August presidential election over irregularities and ordered a new vote held Oct. 26. It was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential election.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the nullification, then boycotted the repeat election, which Kenyatta won with 98 percent of the vote with turnout at just under 39%.

The re-run was suspended in 25 constituencies which are all opposition strongholds amid security fears.

The prolonged election process has disrupted the economy and forced the government to cut its growth forecast. Rights groups said at least 66 people have died in bloodshed surrounding the votes in August and October.

Mugabe's ruthless 37-year reign in Zimbabwe ended

Former president Robert Mugabe, November 21, resigned after pressure of a military takeover and the humiliation of impeachment, marking the end of a tumultuous reign that lasted from Zimbabwe's independence through its economic collapse.

The announcement came moments after a joint session of the Parliament convened to prise the 93-year-old leader from power.

The news of Mugabe's resignation, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, was greeted with wild celebrations at the parliament and across the streets of Harare.

Mugabe's deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on November 24 was sworn in as president at a packed stadium on the outskirts of Harare. In December, Mnangagwa appointed as one of the country's new vice-presidents former army chief, Constantino Chiwenga, who led the military takeover that resulted in the overthrow of Mugabe.

Mugabe's downfall was as much the result of in-fighting among the political elite as a popular uprising, although thousands of people rallied against him in the days after the army intervened.

The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF's favourite to succeed him, in a bid to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as "Gucci Grace" for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

Violence in Ugandan parliament over presidential age limit

The Ugandan parliament on December 20, 2017 voted to scrap presidential age limit which was formerly fixed at 75 years, allowing President Yoweri Museveni to extend his 31-year rule.

The MPs also restored two-term limit for president, meaning that long-ruling Museveni can have two more shots at the presidency staring from the next elections in 2023.

The debate over the bill was been rancorous with MPs exchanging blows at least on three occasions during the plenary.

The last time the bill was debated in September, protesters marched in the streets and blows were also exchanged in parliament, with several MPs landing in the hospital after they were allegedly attacked by state security in plainclothes.

Ramaphosa wins S/Africa's ANC leadership vote

South Africa's fiercest political fighting occurred inside the governing African National Congress (ANC), a once heroic liberation movement but now become associated with corruption and cynicism.

In a shaming rebuke to President Jacob Zuma, the party, December 18, elected Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as its new leader, positioning him to become Zuma's successor.

Ramaphosa narrowly beat Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, 68, a former cabinet minister and Zuma's ex-wife, marking a pivotal moment for the ANC.

Jacob Zuma's presidency, tainted by corruption and scandal, has badly tarnished the ANC's image both at home and abroad.

In the build up to the election, Ramaphosa began to distance himself from Zuma. During his campaign, he condemned high-level corruption as "treason", in remarks that seemed aimed at the president.

Ex-soccer star George Weah wins Liberia's presidency

George Weah, one of Africa's all-time greatest footballers, elected Liberia's president in a delayed run-off election meant to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.

He defeated the country's Vice President, Joseph Boakai in the repeat election held on December 26.

The second round was followed by weeks of legal wrangling, which delayed the vote by more than a month. The Supreme Court ultimately dismissed a legal challenge brought by a third-place finisher in October's first round, and backed by Boakai.

Boakai, who served as deputy to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for 12 years, accepted his loss with grace. In a speech to his supporters, Boakai said he offered the president-elect "a hand of goodwill, friendship and gratitude" and urged Liberians "to work even harder to promote reconciliation".

Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whose 12-year rule cemented peace in the West African country after civil war ended in 2003, and brought in much needed aid.


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