The suggestions that the internationally respected diplomat Mohamed Mostafa el Baradei is an enemy of the Egyptian state show the desperation of the power clique around the fading, 81-year-old President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, even if the prospects for his early exit are, barring health crises, slim. Egyptians were shocked by the vehemence with which the official press attacked the former Director General of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency. El Baradei had been a national hero and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for standing up to United States President George W. Bush’s government over claims that the late President Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.
First Lady Suzanne Mubarak (née Thabet, born in El Minya to an Egyptian doctor and his Welsh wife) is increasingly important in politics, building national alliances and an international profile for herself, as well as promoting her second son, Gamal, to replace her husband. Gamal Mubarak has built a power base in the National Democratic Party and developed strong ties with the financial technocrats he met when he held executive positions in the Bank of America, first in Cairo and then in London in 1988-94.
This year, President Joseph Kabila has his chance to boost his standing with voters before the 2011 presidential and parliamentary election campaign. It is also the 50th anniversary of Congo’s independence, a period punctuated by conflict, grand corruption and continuing foreign interference. A Panel of Experts’ report to the United Nations Security Council in late November (AC Vol 50 No 24) exposed the links to 25 states that support the rebel Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), fighting in Congo-Kinshasa. The UN will push the authorities to block the financing and arming of Hutu militias, source of much of the violence in eastern Congo.
At the congress of the governing Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) in December, President José Eduardo dos Santos once more postponed the general elections until 2012 at the earliest. Now, his government’s main challenge for 2010 is organising the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, which takes place from 10 to 31 January.
Bolstered by its formidable security organisation, the ruling National Congress Party (NCP, aka National Islamic Front, NIF) is widely expected to win the national elections due in April (AC Vol 50 No 25). The credibility of these elections is critical: if they are blatantly or even subtly rigged, as many are sure they will be, it will undermine the referendum on Southern independence, due to follow in mid-2011, along with the simultaneous referendum in Abyei on joining the South or staying with the North.
This was meant to be the year that Côte d’Ivoire returned to constitutional order after the years of chaos since the civil war broke out in 2002. Elections due in 2005 were postponed, then rescheduled for November 2009. The latest date is for February or March but that looks unlikely. Some suspect that the complex preparations and legal battles over elector eligibility could drag on beyond this year.
The political calendar will be dominated by national elections on 23 May. The government wants to avoid a repeat of the violence that followed the 2005 elections, when 200 people were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators (AC Vol 46 No 23). Above all, it wants to win convincingly and face down critics in the diaspora and among foreign activists. Riot police have been trained and a recently formulated Code of Conduct, approved by Parliament, has been signed by 65 parties, though not yet by the largest opposition group, the Forum for Democratic Dialogue in Ethiopia (Medrek).