News / Africa

Africa Has Mixed Record on Peaceful Power Transitions

Laurent Gbagbo (file photo)
Laurent Gbagbo (file photo)
Jennifer Glasse

African negotiators are working to find a solution to the standoff in Ivory Coast, where incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refuses to step down after an election the United States, United Nations and many African leaders say chose a new president, Alassane Ouattara.  Messy power transitions are nothing new for Africa.

Analysts agree that peaceful transitions of power are essential  to ensure stability in Africa.

Patrick Smith writes for Africa Confidential, a newspaper that covers the continent.

"If you look at most of the economic and political crises in Africa, they have at least been partly prompted if not wholly caused by disputes over succession," he said.

Author Michela Wrong has been writing about Africa and its leaders for more than 15 years.

"There is a lot of research showing if you have had a military coup in your country, you are far more likely to have a military coup again in the next five years,  she said.  "So you enter a descending spiral where the more unstable you are, the more unlikely you are to be unstable in the future."

"It is essential that these transitions are peaceful, because in so many African countries, as we saw in the 1990s when this process started, people went to pick up a gun rather than a ballot," said Richard Dowden, of London’s Royal African Society.

That is what happened in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.  In 1997, then-leader Mobutu Sese Seko refused to step down.  He eventually fled the country and died in exile.  But the struggle for power and resources sparked a war that has cost at least three million lives.

And analysts say widespread violence could also break out in Ivory Coast, where Laurent Gbagbo has refused to give up power.  Dowden says President Gbagbo should go.

"The idea that he thinks he can stay on. even though he clearly lost the election, shows him to be something else," he said.  "Another terribly stubborn leader who simply does not understand the way the world works these days."

Wrong says the reason African presidents cling to power is simple.  It is all about money.

"Historically, power has been money in Africa," she said.  "The private sector is small, access to key contracts, you got them by being in power or being very close to someone in power."

And she says in many cases it is the people around the leader that are the problem.

"It is not just an aging president who can not bear to step down, there are also all the generals that he befriended, his aides, his wife, the family members who went into government," she said.  "There is a whole entourage who do not want him to step down."

But Smith says there are encouraging signs.  He says voter turnout in Africa is consistently higher than in the West.

"In terms of enthusiasm for democracy, Africa probably ranks pretty high globally," he said.

And as more Africans have access to mobile phones and the Internet, there is more accountability, Smith says.

"You are seeing a very rapid reaction where elections appear to have been stolen," he said.

But Dowden says Africa, with its tribal divisions is not suited to Western-style elections.

"This is just obviously, obviously to me, not the best system for Africa," he said. "It needs democratic systems that reflect the realities of the societies.  How you do it, I do not know."

In addition to Ivory Coast and Uganda, analysts are concerned about power transitions in Rwanda and Zimbabwe.

*** Note:  An earlier version of this story stated former Liberian President Charles Taylor had been sent to the International Criminal Court in The Hague where he faced war crimes charges.  Mr. Taylor is being tried by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, not the ICC.  VOA regrets the error.

You May Like

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Video Kenyans Lament Al-Shabab's Recruitment of Youths

VOA travels to Isiolo, where residents share their fears, struggles to get loved ones back from Somalia-based militant group More

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensionsi
X
May 26, 2015 11:11 PM
When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs