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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid