AfricaSource Strategic Insight on the New Africa

English Synopsis:
Last month's African Cup of Nations has generated global enthusiasm and an outpouring of African patriotism, and other important sporting events are taking place on the continent, from South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup to Senegal’s hosting of the 2022 Summer Youth Olympics. Next year, the prestigious American National Basketball League (NBA) will be launching an Africa League comprising twelve teams from around the continent.

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The use of white-out on results sheets in Malawi’s May election has brought international media attention to the small southern African country, leading some to dub the polls Malawi’s ‘Tipp-Ex election’ after the popular white-out brand. The opposition claims the entire election should be annulled, and their case has reached the high court, with a final decision due later in August. Claims of irregularities in African elections are all too familiar, but there is often a lack of data precluding substantive analysis. This is where Malawi is different. The country’s election commission has published the official results sheets from each polling station online, with every cross out and use of white-out available for all to see. This provides a unique opportunity to go straight to the source, reporting beyond the competing statements of the opposition and election commission.

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Botswana recently joined the growing list of African countries that have decriminalized homosexuality. In a unanimous decision, the court ruled to decriminalize same-sex relations. Unfortunately, not long after this much celebrated court ruling, Botswana’s government is now seeking to appeal the high court’s ruling and reinstate the criminalizing laws.

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Mauritania’s June 22 presidential election marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. The ruling party’s Mohamed Ould Ghazouani won with 52 percent of the vote, and his closest challenger, Biram Dah Abeid, received 18 percent. But the election was less of a landslide than the vote totals imply: Ghazouani surpassed the 50 percent threshold needed to preclude a second round by less than 19,000 votes (out of 929,285 valid votes cast), and it appears likely that his competitors would have all supported Abeid in a runoff. Thus, the ruling party had a close call, and the opposition’s claim that electoral fraud and irregularities altered the outcome is worth assessing.

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Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC) signed a political power-sharing agreement today with the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFC), the umbrella group of trade unions, professional associations, students, and opposition political parties that brought down thirty years of autocratic rule and have stood their ground since April in the face of military rulers thinking they might perpetuate the former regime by changing some of its lead actors.

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Mauritania’s presidential election on June 22 stands to mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960. This comes as Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who assumed control in a 2008 coup d’état, has agreed to step down, abiding by term limits. Aziz’s ruling Union for the Republic (UPR) party maintains a strong grip on power, but there have been signs of pushback since Aziz directed the abolition of the country’s senate in 2017. The opposition has returned to participate in the current election after largely boycotting in 2014, and the polls will serve as a test for the Muslim Brotherhood party, Tawassoul, which currently heads the opposition.

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In March 2015, Muhammadu Buhari made history by becoming the first presidential candidate in Nigeria to unseat an incumbent president in an election.

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In December, when US National Security Advisor John Bolton previewed the Trump Administration’s security strategy for Africa, he focused more on the rising financial and political influence of China and Russia than on US plans to fight the “proliferation of Radical Islamic Terrorism” across Africa. This is surprising, because in Somalia, the United States has dramatically ratcheted up airstrikes against al-Shabaab and local ISIS militants. And the death of four US special operations soldiers in Niger in November 2017 brought scrutiny to the unreported activities of US special forces in Africa.

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Joseph Kabila’s reluctant withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s December 23 presidential election, after seventeen years in power, was supposed to be a big victory for democracy.

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When a Tuareg rebellion started in northern Mali in early 2012, the fate of the entire Sahel region hung in the balance. In March of that year, army mutineers, unhappy with the Malian government’s response to the uprising, ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré in a coup. Then Islamist groups slowly coopted the tribal rebellion, imposing Sharia in rebel-held cities in the northern half of the country. By the end of the year, Islamist territorial gains were approaching Mali’s capital, prompting interim President Dioncounda Traoré to call for a French military intervention. But the security situation across the Sahel continued to deteriorate, with local terrorist groups such as Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) – both more or less loosely connected with the Saharan branch of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – seeking refuge in the large desert swaths and planning future attacks.

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