Egypt's term as AU chair mustn't distract from its human rights failings

1 day 23 hours ago
Egyptian President and newly-elected AU Chairperson Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. EPA-EFE/STR

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been sworn in as the African Union’s chairman until January 2020. A new chair is selected annually from among the members of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, which is the union’s “supreme organ”.

AL-Sisi’s ascent to this powerful position, even if it’s just for 12 months, should concern anyone who is committed to human rights. The legitimacy of his claim to the Egyptian presidency is tenuous: he came to power in 2013 after staging a coup d’état that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. That’s in contravention of the AU’s own rules; in fact, Egypt was suspended from the AU after the coup.

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South Africa returns to UN Security Council: here's the role it should play

3 days ago
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the UN headquarters, New York. EPA-EFE/Angela Weiss

South Africa’s foreign policy positions will be closely examined as it begins its third two-year term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Its two previous terms – in 2007-8 and 2011-12 – were not great successes. If anything, they actually diminished its global standing, due to its reluctance to censure a number of egregious human rights abusers. Another problem was the confusion surrounding its policy on the Libyan crisis.

This time around, Pretoria must show greater diplomatic finesse and less ideological inflexibility. There are two interrelated objectives throughout its tenure. One is to advance African interests within the international system. The second is reform of global governance to more accurately reflect the demographic realities and power distributions of the 21st century. This is particularly true of the Security Council itself.

Those are familiar and relatively uncontroversial aspects of South Africa’s foreign policy discourse. But, if not carefully managed, this agenda could be encroached on by a number of wider issues that could undermine its interests.

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Both democracy and authoritarianism are on the rise in Africa

4 days ago
Repression is on the rise in Zambia under President Edgar Lungu. EPA/EFE/Abir Sultan

Is democracy in Africa in retreat? Or is it simply suffering “growing pains”? The last 12 months have seen a great deal of controversy and debate on these important questions.

There have been some bright spots, like the rise of more resilient opposition movements in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. But elsewhere on the continent, as in Tanzania and Zambia, repression is on the rise.

A new report I have produced for the Bertlesmann Transformation Index on democratic trends between 2015 and 2018 comes to two very important conclusions about the state of democracy in Africa today.

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Nigeria's election delay: why, and what next?

5 days 21 hours ago
Newspaper headlines following the decision by Nigeria's National Electoral Commission to delay the country's poll. EPA-EFE/Jayden Joshua

Nigeria abruptly postponed its presidential election hours before polling was due to begin. The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for 23 February while the governorship, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled to 9 March. The electoral commission cited logistical challenges for the decision. Olayinka Ajala examines the shock announcement and its implications on the final outcome.

What is your reaction to the pushing back of Nigeria’s presidential vote?

The postponement isn’t a new phenomenon in Nigeria. The 2015 elections were also postponed for six weeks to allow the government to intensify the fight against Boko Haram and for the general security of the electoral commission’s staff in volatile areas. The postponement however, was eventually in favour of the opposition party which eventually won the 2015 polls.

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Postponement fuels lack of trust in Nigeria's ability to hold fair elections

5 days 21 hours ago
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari holding a flag during a recent campaign rally. He is running for a second term in office. EPA-EFE/STR

Nigeria has postponed its 2019 presidential elections. The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for February 23rd and the gubernatorial, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled for March 9th.

The Independent National Electoral Commission made the announcement hours before voting was scheduled to start on February 16.

The country’s electoral commission had three years in which to prepare for the poll. The postponement can therefore be viewed as a display of utter incompetence and inefficiency. It is the first time since 1999 – when Nigeria shunned military rule for democracy – that a Nigerian electoral commission has failed so spectacularly.

This is not the first time an election has been postponed in Nigeria. But reasons cited on previous occasions – such as the threat posed by Boko Haram – had more substance and felt more legitimate.

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What to expect as 84 million Nigerians go to the polls

1 week 1 day ago
Nigerians get ready to cast their vote on February 16. EPA-EFE/Stringer

Nigerians go to the polls on February 16 in the first of two sets of elections to choose the president, national assembly and state legislators. Olayinka Ajala sets the scene for Africa’s largest democratic undertaking and highlights the main logistical and political challenges that come with it.

How many Nigerians are registered to vote, and what are their main demographics?

There are 84,004,084 registered to vote in the 2019 election in 36 states and the federal capital territory, Abuja. Of this number, more than 15 million are new voters.

Young voters form a clear majority. More than half of the registered voters – 51.11% – are aged between 18 and 35; 29.97% are between 36 and 50; 15.22% are between between 51 and 70, and 3.69% are older than 70.

Although the electoral commission has not released the total breakdown of the registration in the final register, more women than men registered to vote in the 2019 elections for the first time.

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Nigeria has a history of dodgy elections: will it be different this time?

1 week 4 days ago
President Muhammadu Buhari attends a campaign rally ahead of the 16 February elections. EPA-EFE/Stringer

Nigeria is preparing for its general election. But will it be credible? Nigerian voters are well aware that the elections will not be won solely by votes or popular consensus. There are several other variables that influence election results.

These include the incumbent’s control of state security apparatuses, grassroots structures, and control of institutions such as market traders associations, and the National Union for Road Transport Workers.

The road transport workers’ union, which acts as a canopy for bus drivers, conductors, and motor park touts in Southwestern Nigeria, has a history of providing foot soldiers for employment as election thugs with skills in ballot box snatching and voter intimidation tactics.

In addition, the possibility that the election could be rigged cannot be ignored.

Questions around the credibility of elections in post-independence Nigeria can be traced as far back as the “First Republic” which lasted from 1960 - 1966. After allegations of massive rigging in the 1965 elections the country’s western region was engulfed in the infamous “Operation Wet-ie” riots.

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Data shows South Africans will welcome Ramaphosa's tough talk on graft

2 weeks ago
South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa putting final touches to his state of the nation address in which he took a hard stance on corruption. GCIS

South Africans have been shocked by the tidal wave of corruption testimony emerging from the commission tasked with probing allegations of state capture by private business interests.

Claims of systematic and widespread corruption involving patronage networks built around former President Jacob Zuma are testing the public’s faith in the country’s Constitution, democratic system and public representatives. Government ministers, senior civil servants and politicians from the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) have also been implicated.

It is clear from the 2019 state of the nation address delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the penny has dropped and that the government will finally take a hard stance against corruption. Speaking at length about state capture, Ramaphosa described the commission’s revelations as “deeply disturbing”.

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2 hours 38 minutes ago
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