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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora