Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Are “African Solutions” right for the continent’s democracy push?

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IVORYCOAST/GBAGBO

   

“This is an African solution to an African problem,” was African Union chief Jean Ping’s reasoning for another round of negotiations to resolve Ivory Coast’s bitter leadership dispute.

Regional leaders and the outside world had been uncharacteristically swift to condemn Laurent Gbagbo’s bid to cling onto power. The AU itself wasted little time suspending the West African nation from the bloc.

Gbagbo lost the presidential election in November last year, according to U.N. certified results, but he has refused to hand over power to rival Alassane Ouattara, citing fraud.

That has left regional powers, the AU and the United Nations all up against the same problem: how to convince Gbagbo to exit gracefully?

Sudan’s “foolproof” elections

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SUDAN-ELECTIONS/It all started so well… the lines of voters sheltering patiently in the shade from the sweltering heat to vote in Sudan’s first open polls in 24 years.

Many criticised the opposition for boycotting the vote, saying it was missing out on a national event.

To observe or not to observe?

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SUDAN-ELECTIONS/This is likely to be the question hotly debated in the more self-aware international observer missions covering Sudan’s elections, due to start on Sunday and marred by a wave of boycotts and claims of fraud.

Sudan’s first multi-party polls in almost quarter of a century had promised to be fiercely contested until revelations of irregularities caused boycotts by several parties.

Gaddafi tries to steal show at African Summit. Again

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AFRICA SUMMIT/SOMALIALibyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has been stealing the show at African Union summits for years now. With theatrical – sometimes bizarre – entrances, rambling, grandiose speeches and his well-known penchant for dressing up, Gaddafi has gobbled up media coverage and bemused his fellow leaders.

But he probably wasn’t expecting what happened yesterday when he introduced two traditional African “kings” to speak to the assembled African leaders. Peals of laughter started to ring around the room. It began when he made the announcement and it continued as they spoke. It seems that some African delegates have begun to consider the continent’s longest serving leader ridiculous. And aren’t afraid to show it.

Why is the world ignoring Somalia?

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somaliaI’m blogging from the African Union’s annual summit in Addis Ababa and can see the Somali delegation from where I’m sitting. They’re mingling right now, cups of coffee and croissants in hand, pressing the flesh and smiling and joking with leaders and ministers from all over the continent and beyond. Delegates are responding warmly to the men who represent a government hemmed into only a few streets of the capital Mogadishu as they fight an increasingly vicious Islamist rebellion.

But you get the sense the other delegates are responding so warmly to compensate for something: The fact that the Somalis are here looking for help and nobody is really willing to stick their neck out and give it to them.

A slick visit to Darfur’s red carpet camps

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There was a time when visits to Darfur were uncertain affairs, fraught with danger. These days — as long as you travel with the right people and stick strictly to the right route — they can be as comfortable as a coach trip.

The African Union delegation plane touched down in El Fasher, North Darfur’s capital, at 9.35 a.m. on Tuesday. We were on the bus heading back to the airstrip at 4.40 p.m.

Some questions about al-Shabaab

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Have the Islamists started to go too far in Somalia?

The reaction among ordinary Somalis to an al-Shabaab car bomb attack on African Union peacemakers last week may be instructive.

The attack was billed as an act of revenge against America for a commando raid carried out a few days earlier by U.S. troops, who killed one of the most wanted al Qaeda men in Africa.

Africa back to the old ways?

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The overthrow of Madagascar’s leader may have had nothing to do with events elsewhere in Africa, but after four violent changes of power within eight months the question is bound to arise as to whether the continent is returning to old ways.

Three years without coups between 2005 and last year had appeared to some, including foreign investors, to have indicated a fundamental change from the first turbulent decades after independence. This spate of violent overthrows could now be another reason for investors to tread more warily again, particularly as Africa feels the impact of the global financial crisis.

Gaddafi keeps African leaders talking

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Despite the extremely tight security at this week’s African Union summit in Ethiopia, one brief lapse gave some journalists covering the meeting a very rare glimpse behind the scenes.

Reporters at the annual meeting in Addis Ababa are normally kept well away from the heads of state, except for the occasional carefully managed press conference, or a brief word thrown in our direction as they sweep past in the middle of a phalanx of sharp-elbowed, scowling bodyguards.

Will Gaddafi bring change to African Union?

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Libya’s often controversial leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has finally won the top seat at the African Union and promised to accelerate his drive for a United States of Africa, but it seems doubtful that even his presence in the rotating chairmanship will do anything to overcome the reluctance of many African nations to accelerate moves towards a federal government.

Gaddafi, a showman whose fiery, often rambling speeches, sometimes unconventional behaviour and colourful robes are always a scene stealer at international gatherings, has been pushing for a pan-regional govenrment for years. But like his previous, three-decade drive to to promote Arab unity, it has not aroused much enthusiasm in many quarters. All the AU’s 53 states have said they agree in principle but estimates for how long this will take vary from nine years to 35.

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