News / Africa

Power-Sharing Governments in Africa Face Limitations

A recent trend to stop cycles of violence in Africa has been to institute national unity power-sharing governments. Current examples include Ivory Coast, Guinea, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Sudan and Kenya. VOA's Nico Colombant asked several Africa experts in the United States if they believe these work, and if they have examples of what might work better.

Deadly protests have been frequent in divided Ivory Coast despite a power-sharing government
Deadly protests have been frequent in divided Ivory Coast despite a power-sharing government

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo recently dissolved a power-sharing government over a dispute about electoral rolls.

The question of who should vote still divides the West African nation into a government-run south and a rebel-held north, eight years after fighting erupted.

African experts agree power-sharing governments have been extremely challenging.  But David Shinn a former U.S ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia says they are still the right approach to end bloodshed.

"The power-sharing arrangements are very difficult to implement in the African context or any context for that matter and there just are not too many cases where they have actually worked, but even having said that, I would still urge that they be tried," he said.

Other experts, though, like Mark Davidheiser who specializes in peace in African studies, view them more as a band-aid which do not address the causes of a conflict.  He says they can also worsen corruption.

"The problem is often the rebellious leaders or the insurgency leaders who are then brought into the government, they can be sort of bought off and co-opted into the ruling elite, so that they no longer aspire to serve the will of their people and to help their constituencies, the people they are representing, so that again the seeds of the conflict or the forces animating the conflict, issues behind it, remain intact," he said.

Boston University African Studies Center Director Timothy Longman said opposition members are also often blamed in a power-sharing setting when things go wrong.

"What is actually a stronger answer is to guarantee that the opposition has rights, so that if you want to criticize the government, you are free to do so without being harassed, if you want to publish a newspaper that is critical of the government, you should be able to do that without being harassed, if you want to organize a party, you should be able to do that without being harassed," said Longman.

"And what is very important as well is to make sure that elections are actually free and fair, the reason that we end up with these coalitions is usually because someone has stolen an election," he added.

Longman points to another solution which was tried in post-conflict, ethnically divided, Burundi.

"They set up a system that guarantees both Tutsis and Hutus a certain percentage of the senate, and of the military and of the Cabinet, and then they guarantee some extra seats for the Twa, the smallest ethnic group in the country as well," he said.

Longman says he has been surprised at the results, even if there continue to be sometimes dangerous divisions within Burundi's army.

"The level of ethnic tension in Burundi has really diminished markedly.  Now, this is different than a coalition government because it is a government that has free and fair elections but within certain limitations, within certain parameters, that say that we are going to take identity into account when we figure the final results," said Longman.

"That seems to me to be a better option because what has happened in Burundi is now you have got major competition between different Hutu groups who are vying for those positions that are reserved for Hutus, and you have competition between some of the Tutsi groups who are vying for the positions within Tutsis so you get a much more competitive system and I think that is much healthier for the political process," Longman said.

Countries with power-sharing arrangements hoping to help normalize their volatile situations with scheduled elections this year include Sudan, Guinea, Madagascar and Ivory Coast, although delays are possible.  

Starting in May, Burundi is scheduled to begin a series of local, legislative and presidential polls.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
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.

AppleAndroid