Richard Joseph and Rachel Beatty Riedl
On October 31, Blaise Compoaré, president of Burkina Faso, was forced to resign after days of mass protest. He had been in power for 27 years and was seeking to change the constitution to run again. But the Burkinabe people said Enough! They wanted change – they took to the street, torched the parliament, and brought an end to Campaoré’s rule. Soon thereafter, the country’s military settled on Lt. Colonel Isaac Zida to lead an interim government. But this action sparked further protests and insistent demands that the military yield power to a civilian transitional government. AfricaPlus presents commentaries based on a radio interview with Richard Joseph and an op-ed by Rachel Beatty Riedl. They both situate the Burkina Faso upheavals in the context of struggles to “claim democracy” in Africa.
Amy Poteete and John Holm
In her October 20 AfricaPlus essay- “Democracy Derailed? Botswana’s Fading Halo” – Amy Poteete provides a critical assessment of democratic institutions and practices in this southern African country. She contends that in Botswana, a stellar democratic and economic performer since independence in 1966, corruption and mismanagement are increasing. The abuse of governmental authority, she claims, reflects “the absence of effective checks on executive power”. Poteete criticizes the shift from “cooperation to coercion” under President Ian Khama and the long-ruling BDP (Botswana Democratic Party). John Holm, a senior scholar of Botswana government and politics, responds to Poteete’s contentions. We publish this important debate – including remarks on the October 2014 parliamentary election and post-election disputes – which should be read in conjunction with Poteete’s initial essay: https://africaplus.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/democracy-derailed-botswanas-fading-halo/
President Ian Khama of Botswana, who was re-elected in the October 2014 elections. (Photo from UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office)
by Amy R. Poteete
Botswana earned a reputation for political stability, electoral democracy, and economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, when much of the African continent appeared to be mired in economic stagnation and authoritarian rule. This reputation has persisted despite contradictory developments. Since the 1990s, many other African countries introduced multiparty elections, and economic performance improved across the continent. Over the same period in Botswana, corruption and mismanagement have become increasingly prevalent while the abuse of governmental authority have drawn attention to the absence of effective checks on executive power.
Many observers – foreign governments, international financial institutions, Freedom House, Transparency International, and academics researchers – tend to downplay these problems. They insist, by and large, that Botswana has remained stable, democratic, and well-governed relative to other African states. The southern African country continues to enjoy “a halo effect”. But the halo has faded. Political tensions are much more serious and deeply rooted than most observers acknowledge. They have now erupted in the run-up to parliamentary elections on October 24th.
Ballot boxes for the 2014 elections. (The Independent Electoral Commission, Republic of Botswana.)
By Richard Joseph
A #bringbackourgirls protest in New York City, May 3, 2014. Photo by Michael Fleshman, CC BY-NC 2.0.
The announcement by senior Nigerian military and government officials that an agreement has been reached with Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 kidnapped Chibok girls is welcome, although it has understandably been greeted with considerable caution. And news that a ceasefire has also been agreed, and that further negotiations will take place, is another positive development.
But this is a case when we will actually need to see the girls emerging from their six-month confinement before we can truly believe.
After all, it was only recently that it was announced that Abubakar Shekau, reputed leader of the jihadist group, had supposedly been killed… again. Yet Shekau, or someone claiming to be him, probably lives on in a country where much political, economic and now military affairs take place in the shadows.
Read the full oped at CNN
By Richard Joseph
July 23 marks 100 days since the Chibok girls were abducted. The Boko Haram insurgency has brought to world attention the shortcomings of Nigeria’s army, police, and other security services. President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking $1billion in external loans to enhance their capacity. His government has shifted from one bold declaration to another: a state of emergency, total war, and now adding more funds to the billions already poured into these services. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive strategy focusing on the wider Nigerian predicament as well as the opportunities for sustainable progress. This essay and others to follow will address this need.
By Elise Dufief
International democracy promotion is challenged by the global retreat of democracy. The case of Ethiopia demonstrates how political space can be narrowed, a hegemonic regime strengthened, and election observer missions constricted in their capacity to influence outcomes. Election monitoring can deepen the contradictions between regime practices and democratic objectives. *
Why does the Ethiopian government regularly organize elections and invite election observers only to reject their findings? How did the governing party come close to losing the 2005 election yet triumph in 2010 with 99.6% of the vote? Why do international actors such as the EU Observer Mission continue to participate in these processes where their credibility is likely to be tarnished? Such questions must be answered about the manipulation of democracy promotion instruments by a non-democratic regime.
Addis Ababa – Meskal Square 2013 – (c) E. Dufief
By Richard Joseph
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on
Two centuries ago, John Keats wrote his enigmatic “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. It came to mind after President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address at West Point. The unheard message was about the Nigerian Urn, filling with human ashes from terrorist atrocities and military counterattacks. The heard melody was about the girls of Chibok, hauled away like livestock into the Sambisa Forest: “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave”.
Escaped Chibok schoolgirls meeting with Borno state governor