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Taking Africa’s Democratic Temperature As A Dozen Countries Prepare For Polls

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Africa Governance Gains Hampered By Security, Job Fears - Study

 

John J Stremlau, University of the Witwatersrand

More than a dozen national elections will be held across Africa next year. All 55 members of the African Union (AU) are obligated to hold regular and ostensibly democratic elections. They must also invite teams of AU election observers to publicly monitor, assess and report the results.

Is all this electoral activity helping to entrench democracy as the foundation for national and regional security, development and integration? Or have elections become the means for demagogues to grab power – or, more typically, for powerful elites and authoritarian rulers to entrench themselves?

Democratic theory prescribes credible elections as a necessary, but insufficient means, to consolidate real democracy. Real democracy typically abets peace and security. National circumstances vary. But three additional conditions are also vital. They are freedom of expression, the right of assembly, and an independent nonpartisan
judiciary to resolve disputes and ensure the rule of law predominates.

Most deadly conflicts in Africa occur within – not between – sovereign states. Recognising this, the AU has made observing and assessing democratic elections an integral part of its operations. This often happens alongside observers from regional economic communities.

As observations improve, so do opportunities to gauge whether electoral violence and other severe human rights abuses threaten regional peace and security.

In mid-November, there were three important developments at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. These promise to improve Africa’s long-term prospects for collective self-reliance and democratic peace. And this
will happen regionally, nationally and locally.

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The first was a streamlining of the continental body’s operations. The second was a move to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of member countries. The third was a renewed commitment to improve the
depth, duration, and diligence of African election observation missions.

Three Changes

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda has been the chair of the AU this year. He has driven a set of administrative and financial reforms to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

Headline reforms include:

  • Introducing merit-based hiring and promotion procedures, and
  • Reducing dependence on foreign donors. This has been achieved by
    revising the scale of member state contributions and penalties for
    nonpayment.
File 20181128 32180 15epy30.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1Elections, and observer processes are a big priority in Africa.
UN Photo/Flickr

The key structural reform will be combining the portfolios of Political Affairs and Peace and Security. This makes sense strategically. It will ensure that the lion’s share of AU resources supports both urgent peacemaking needs and creates conditions conducive to developing politically capable states. Failures on either front could jeopardise the AU’s strategic plan for the socio-economic transformation of the continent.

Two other developments complement these shifts.

One is the Assembly’s decision to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of key governance areas on the continent. This promises substantial improvements in the role and functioning of the African Peer Review Mechanism. The mechanism was established in 2003. It aims to encourage member states to critically and regularly assess their progress in governance and socio-economic development.

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After much initial excitement, the mechanism devolved into a largely technical and widely ignored exercise. Its governing Forum of Heads of State sought to infuse it with greater political clout and relevance in 2016. It mandated its new director, Professor Eddy Maloka, to produce an Africa-wide comparative assessment of governance challenges facing AU member states.

This will be presented to the next regular AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in February 2019.

The final change involves beefing up election monitoring. Ten years ago the AU entered into a formal partnership with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa. The parties agreed on 16 November to seek ways to extend and improve the partnership.

The institute is based in Johannesburg. It boasts an all-African staff from more than a dozen nations. It has helped AU missions on several fronts. This has included the training and application of:

  • a common set of observation principles and democratic election standards, and
  • more comprehensive, rapid and technologically advanced tools and training of AU observers.

The partnership has also helped the AU to acquire a leadership role among domestic and international election observer groups pursuing greater electoral transparency and accountability. This is true even within Africa’s most troubled states.

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Is democracy dying?

These efforts would seem to run counter to the question “Is Democracy Dying?”, which has become a preoccupation in the era of US President Donald Trump. African politics, too, are vulnerable to demagoguery, debauchery and divisiveness. More notable is the proliferation of progressive forces at all levels of African politics. They are exposing and combating corruption and other egregious abuses of power.

Progress is slow, erratic, and dangerous for democracy advocates and activists to pursue. Yet in a year when Freedom House’s latest global survey concludes democracy is in decline, Africa may well be bucking the trend.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s 2018 Index of African Governance found that

…governance on our continent, on average, is slowly improving … approximately three out of four African citizens live in a country where governance has improved over the last ten years.

Despite Africa’s many problems, it continues to sustain a wide variety of democratic experiments. Extensive surveys by Afrobarometer, the non-partisan research network, show the majority of Africa’s citizens still prefer democracy to the alternative. This is a reality the African Union increasingly recognises and is attempting to support.The Conversation

John J Stremlau, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

African News

Ramaphosa Deploys SANDF To Mozambique As Cyclone Affects SA Power Supply

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Ramaphosa Deploys SANDF To Mozambique As Cyclone Affects SA Power Supply

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa says he has deployed the South African National Defense Force, SANDF, to Mozambique to assist in recovery efforts after cyclone Idal caused severe damage, knocking down pylons and affecting power supply to Eskom.

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The storm is said to have damaged a Mozambican transmission line to South Africa, cutting supplies by 900 mega watts, and worsening already strained electricity supply in South Africa.

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The president has apologized to South Africans for the crisis that has led to an increase in load shedding.  Ramaphosa said the problem should be cleared within two to three days.

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Kenya: Former Destitute Man, Patrick Hinga Passes On

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Kenya: Former Destitute Man, Patrick Hinga Passes On

Former destitute street adult in Kenya, Patrick Hinga, has died.  His rescue and transformation by a former schoolmate became an internet sensation.  Hinga’s rehabilitation from the abyss of drug abuse was captured and shared step by step on social media by Wanja Nwaura, a childhood friend, who also broke the sad news on Sunday.

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Nwaura had a chance meeting with Hinga in 2017 when he shouted her name as she was getting to a market.  A journey back from drug addiction began for Nwaura’s childhood friend who had spent many years living in the streets.

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Nwaura took Hinga out of the streets and got him help at a local rehabilitation center.  Born in 1983, Hinga’s drug problems began when he was in standard 8. His friends introduced him to the lifestyle that later destroyed him.

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Nwaura launched an appeal for Hinga’s rehabilitation as the Chiromo medical lane center.  He completed the program in 2018, and the hospital waived a fifteen hundred dollars bill.

Nwaura did not say what caused her friend’s death.

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Black Boxes Data Shows “Clear Similarities” Between Ethiopian And Lion Air Crashes

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Black Boxes Data Shows “Clear Similarities” Between Ethiopian And Lion Air Crashes

Black boxes from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crash last week have shown what authorities call “clear similarities” with October’s lion air crash 737.

The crash has generated one of the most widely watched and high-stakes inquiries for years, with the latest version of Boeing’s profitable max series.

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Both jets in the crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia were max 8, and both crashed minutes after take-off when pilots reported control problems.

Concern over the plane’s safety led aviation authorities to ground the model, wiping billions off Boeing’s market value.

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Ethiopian transport ministry spokesman, Muse Yiheyis, has said the data were successfully recovered, and they show similar case with the Indonesian crash.  He said American and Ethiopian teams had validated data from the black boxes.  Us officials told Reuters News Agency in Washington they have not validate the data.

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