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confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 19th March 2020

Denials of democracy

Blue Lines

We are all democrats now, at least up to a point. That point has been reached in a raft of West and East African states where the regional economic groupings were meant to be upholding higher standards of accountability and governance. The Economic Community of West African States has nudged some autocrats and kleptocrats from power, and encouraged their successors to hold more credible elections. 

As economic and security pressures mount, the regional groupings are abandoning that role. In Kampala, General Henry Tumukunde is in prison facing treason charges after threatening to stand for the presidency against his former boss, President Yoweri Museveni. In Guinea and Togo, the presidents are emulating Museveni's example of seeking multiple re-elections.

President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo won a fourth term after changing the constitution. On polling day, troops surrounded the house of Agbéyomé Kodjo, his main opponent. 

In Guinea, Alpha Condé, 81, has postponed a referendum to change the constitution but few doubt he wants another term. And Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el Sisi distrusts Sudan's transition to democracy, especially the government's support of Ethiopia in its dispute with Egypt on the Blue Nile dam. For Sisi, who attended Cairo's military academy with Sudan's generals, plans by civilian ministers in Khartoum to unpick the army's hold on the national economy are unacceptable, setting a bad regional precedent.