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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 2nd November 2017

Democrats step up the struggle

Blue Lines

Are democrats getting stronger or weaker in Africa? That depends on where you're sitting. In Tanzania, where President John Magufuli's government arrested Zitto Kabwe, the outspoken oppositionist, on 31 October, political freedoms are under siege. Kabwe's arrest, the second in as many months, follows a failed assassination attempt against fellow oppositionist Tundu Lissu in Dar es Salaam on 7 September.

Similarly, Zambia's opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, in London this week for talks with the Commonwealth, faces a mountain to climb to launch serious negotiations over political reforms with President Edgar Lungu. Hichilema was detained on treason charges until the Commonwealth intervened in August, after which he was freed and the charges dropped.

Kenyan politics seemed to be opening up after the Supreme Court annulled the 8 August presidential election citing serious flaws in the tallying and transmission of results. But the re-run, held on 26 October against a backdrop of violence and threats, hasn't earned President Uhuru Kenyatta the legitimacy he sought. Instead, it has fired up opposition leader Raila Odinga to launch a people's assembly and a national resistance movement to campaign against Kenyatta. In contrast, Liberians reacted nervously to the news that their Supreme Court has halted the second round of presidential elections to hear claims that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf interfered in the first round.