Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Madagascar: a slow-motion coup

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It seems Madagascar’s slow-motion coup has at last come to a head with the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana, announced almost casually in a text message from one of his aides.

The change has been a long time coming — the first outbreaks of violence were in January — and it’s all rather different from what many would regard as the traditional African coup d’etat.

Over the years that has developed into a familiar formula — the dawn announcement from a little-known colonel on national radio, the setting up of a military council to restore order after the sins of the previous regime, and the vague promise of a return to democracy in due course. The ousted leader may well have been out of the country at the time. The new boys move quickly to consolidate power.

In its final stages, the Madagascar version has been a little slower. Troops announced that they had deployed tanks but initially did not show them on the streets. Soldiers stormed the presidential palace, but the president was not at home. The central bank was seized, but the colonel in command of that operation then announced he had no more orders for the time being.

Will democracy work in Ethiopia?

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Six Ethiopian opposition parties have joined forces to go up against the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in next year’s parliamentary elections, but their chances of bringing change look slim at best and they complain of heavy-handed tactics by the ruling party.

The foremost opposition figure in Africa’s second most populous country, Birtukan Mideksa, a 34-year-old former judge, has been in solitary confinement since December. She was jailed after the first democratic poll in 2005, which ended in rioting that was bloodily suppressed, was pardoned in 2007 and rearrested last year after renouncing the terms of her pardon.

New hope for Zimbabwe?

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Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change has agreed to join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe, breaking a crippling deadlock four months after the political rivals reached a power-sharing deal.

The decision could improve Zimbabwe’s prospects of recovering from economic collapse and easing a humanitarian crisis in which more than 60,000 people have been infected by cholera and more than half the population needs food aid.

Africa still crying for freedom?

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“Sub-Saharan Africa: Year of Regression”. That was the heading used by U.S.-based rights group Freedom House in its survey of political freedom in the world published this week.

Of course the Freedom House survey pointed to the coups in Guinea and Mauritania as well as the situation in Zimbabwe, whose elections were condemned by many countries and where the crisis shows no sign of lessening, but there were plenty of other names on the list too:

Ghana’s lesson

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This week, Ghana completed its smooth transfer of power from the ruling party to the opposition after an election that won praise around the continent.

President John Atta Mills certainly faces plenty of challenges, but the change of guard – the second such democratic victory of the opposition over a ruling party in Ghana – was a big achievement in itself on a continent where such a possibility sometimes seems more theoretical than real.

from Global News Journal:

Cheers for Africa’s new military ruler. For now.

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Fifteen years ago this month, Guinea’s late ruler Lansana Conte made clear what form democracy would take under his rule.

We answered a summons to a late night news conference to hear the result of his first multiparty election, speeding through silent streets where armoured vehicles waited in the shadows. The interior minister announced that ballots from the east, the opposition’s stronghold, had been cancelled because of irregularities. Conte had therefore won 50.93 percent of the vote. There was no need for a run-off because he had an absolute majority.

from Global News Journal:

Ghana’s elections: Dare Africa hope?

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As Ghanaians get set to elect a new president and parliament on Sunday, there seems to be as much attention on what a new leader will mean for Ghana as on what message Ghana will send the world about the state of Africa today. After a dismal year with elections rigged or marred by violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Nigeria, to name but a few, Africa could do with a pick-me-up.

Despite some wobbles and sporadic violence in northern Ghana where several people were killed in the early stages of the campaign, preparations for Sunday’s elections have gone relatively smoothly.

from Global News Journal:

Does Algeria now have a president for life?

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After the Algerian parliament changed the constitution to lift presidential term limits, north Africans are asking whether Algeria now has a president for life.

 

In making the change, Algeria has followed a route taken in recent years by other African countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Uganda, all of which removed the limit of two presidential terms.

Where’s the party in Angola?

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Resident students from Angola wave national flags as Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos's motorcade drives past after his arrival at Havana's Jose Marti airport September 20, 2007. REUTERS/Claudia DautIf anyone had a reason to paint the town red, it would seem to be Angolans after their first election in 16 years.

While certainly not perfect, the poll was peaceful and free of the strife that marred others recently in Africa.

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