Thursday October 26 2017

Fourth democratic wave in Eastern Africa halted by broken promises

Karoli Ssemogerere

Karoli Ssemogerere 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

Africa’s democracies, fragile and nascent, have had a very difficult two years. The failure to modernise and liberalise is a big curb on human and social development as repressive regimes are costly to maintain. Not all news is grim.
Angola recently replaced its long-standing president Eduardo dos Santos, who has been in power since 1979.

The MPLA annihilated UNITA on the battlefield before executing Jonas Savimbi on the battlefield too.
Survivors of UNITA are about 20 per cent strength in Parliament just like their Renamo counterparts in Mozambique.

Next door in Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, now 93, is all set for an unprecedented fourth general election in 2018.
Another five-year term will put him at 99 at the end of his term in 2023.

Two vice presidents jostling for power are also competing for the eye of his wife Grace Mugabe widely rumoured to be the power behind the throne. When the West went hard on Mugabe, Zimbabwe broke into two schisms, Shona versus Ndebele a constellation that favours Mugabe who is from the Shona majority tribe.
Up north in Zambia, President Edgar Lungu locked his opponent for engaging in defiance and threatened to expel all Opposition MPs from Parliament. Zambia has a fairly competitive multi-party system where power has shifted from two ruling parties (UNIP) in 1992 and (MMD) in 2011 to Michael Sata. Zambia also made history when its courts sanctioned the impounding of ill- gotten wealth from former MMD leader Frederick Chiluba.
In South Africa, Jacob Zuma is serving his last term as President and will be replaced as party leader in December.

The ANC, which lost its two thirds majority in 2009, is set to shed more numbers in light of pressure from the left by its allies, the Communist Party, Trade Unions and its defiant opponents, the Economic Freedom Fighters, who have turned Parliament into a sports gym with their red attire and disruption of Parliament proceedings.
In the East African Community, democratic wings have been clipped, first in Uganda where President Museveni’s muscular flattening of Parliament like a pancake is expected to result in amendment of the Constitution to remove the remaining limit on his tenure.
Presidents Museveni, Paul Kagame and Pierre Nkurunziza have reset their horizons on State power for the foreseeable future.

In the DRC, there are no signs that President Joseph Kabila will leave power after his constitutional limit in office expired last year.

Kenya, the liberal bellwether, recently had its presidential election annulled by the Supreme Court, a development that has muddled rather than clarified the political space. One of the risks coming out of the Kenya arose from the Opposition underperforming the ruling party in the August general election. Jubilee came verily close to a two thirds majority in the National Assembly, the de-facto parliament, a development that is likely to encourage Uhuru Kenyatta, the incumbent, to compromise less.
The Supreme Court appears to have been ill-prepared for the backlash that accompanied the presidential election petition decision famously for pointing out a popular phenomenon in African elections. Writing for the majority Philomena Mwilu, the Deputy Chief Justice, a front pew Catholic, observed that IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati, read results before they had officially been received.
Tanzania does not allow for presidential election petitions at all.

President Magufuli has not given any false hopes that he will liberalise further. He has maintained a strong stand on Zanzibar and the local opposition not hesitating to lock them up.
There are a few outliers in the bigger states. Sudan’s Omar Bashir has cut a deal with the United States to buy him freedom. Sudan’s 40 million people start to make sense when counted together with Egypt’s 95 million and Ethiopia’s 104 million people 90 per cent of the population of the United States. Africans ever the charm are taking things in stride, it is very much still big man rule this corner of the world.

Mr Ssemogerere is an Attorney-at-Law
and an Advocate. [email protected]