The political reformation by President João Lourenço of Angola has thrown Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos out of job.
Isabel was earlier today, November 16, 2017, sacked as the chief of Sonangol – Angola’s state-run oil firm by the new Angolan President who succeeded her father.
Isabel is the first daughter of former Angolan president José Eduardo dos Santos—who ruled the African country for 38 years before stepping down in August 2017. According to Forbes, she is estimated to worth $3.5 billion, thus making her the wealthiest woman in the continent.
This move as noted is part of plans by President Lourençoá to curtail the power of the dos Santos Dynasty in the Southern African country. Also, some of these reforms is a confirmation of Lourenço’s vow during his campaign to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessor.
Angola is one of Africa’s most oil-rich countries with Nigeria as rival for the status of Africa’s biggest oil producer. Oil export accounts for over 93 percent of the country’s export and a major part of government revenue.
According to Reuters, the presidency did not give a reason for the dismissal of dos Santos but was immediately replaced with Carlos Saturnino.
Despite this unexpected relief, Isabel’s fortune may not be affected due to her huge investments in other major companies in the country and Portugal.
Democracy is a system of governing where citizens elect people to represent them, make decisions on their behalf and guide them. For the black continent, it is a system just evolving and gaining more acceptance.
As such, some countries seem to have gotten the hang of democracy over the years while others like Zimbabwe and others, not so much.
These African countries have been identified to have the most efficient and long-lasting democratic governments.
Zambia, which was known as Northern Rhodesia, became a republic after it gained independence in 1964.
It is a country with a population of 16 million people, and has enjoyed a long stint of democracy since 1991. This is after its Prime Minister, Kenneth Kaunda voluntarily resigned after 3 decades of ruling.
In 2010, Zambia was named of the world’s fastest economically reformed countries by the World Bank. As at 2016, the country was ranked 77 on the Global Democracy Index.
Although Kenya went through a political turmoil during Presidential elections in 2007, it has one of the most stable democracies in Africa.
There has been over five successive transitional processes in the country since independence. Also, an attempt by the Military to seize power in 1982 was stopped by people’s efforts.
Kenya’s position on the Democracy Index as of 2016 is currently 92.
Tanzania got its independence from the Britain in 1962, and has since enjoyed democratic transition of power. In the country, president and members of the country’s National Assembly serve for five year before facing another election.
Last year, the country elected a new President, Mr John Magufuli, and he has begun reform processes that strengthen public institutions in the country.
Tanzania is currently number 83 on the Democracy Index as of 2016.
Senegal is a country of 13 million citizens. It is one of the few African states that has never experienced a coup or any harsh authoritarian leadership since Independence.
Senegal’s first president, Léopold Sédar Senghor, voluntarily handed over power to his Prime Minister in 1981.
In 2016, the country is ranked 75 on the global democracy index.
Botswana gained independence from the Britain in 1966, and recently celebrated 51 years of freedom. With a population of 2 million citizens, the country boasts of having the fastest growing economy worldwide.
Just like Senegal, Botswana has been lucky not to have experienced a military coup or non-democratic leader.
Botswana ranked 27 on the Democracy Index as of 2016, thus making it one of the highest-ranking African countries on the index.
A week in African politics can be a very long time. A lot of things usually happen with outcomes habitually bordering on the extreme. A protest here with the government usually responding with terror, a corruption scandal there, a contested election that is often marred with irregularities or voter intimidation, a drought that way, the list is endless.
Business Insider Sub Saharan Africa is chronicling African leaders who were forced out of office.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – Tunisia
Zine el Abidine Ben Ali will be remembered as the first leader to be toppled in what became known as the Arab Spring. After nearly 24 years in in pomp and luxury, he became the former president of Tunisia. Ben Ali was thrown out for economic mismanagement abuse of power.
Hosni Mubarak – Egypt
The 89-year-old, Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt for almost 30 years until he was swept from power in a wave of mass protests in February 2011 after he surprised the people of his country by refusing to resign.
Laurent Gbagbo – Ivory Coast
He served in opposition for 20 years and finally came to power in 2000 when military leader Robert Guei’s attempts to rig elections were defeated by street protests in Ivory Coast. The 72-year-old was forced out of office after his unwillingness to to accept defeat at the ballot box. Gbagbo is being tried at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.
Muammar Gadaffi – Libya
The African strongman met his inhumane fate in October 2011 after being in power since 1969. Gaddafi had been Africa’s and the Arab world’s longest-serving ruler. He gave a televised speech amid violent social unrest against his autocratic rule. He promised to hunt down protesters which caused a furor that fuelled the armed rebellion against him.
Madagascar’s Marc Ravalomanana – Madagascar
The 68-year-old Malagasy politician was ousted in 2009 by Andry Rajoelina, a former deejay and mayor of the capital Antananarivo, with the backing of the army following nearly two months of bloody protests that left an estimated 100 people dead. He fled to Swaziland and later moved to South Africa.
Amadou Toumani Toure – Mali
The 68-year-old was deposed in an apparent coup, first came to power in the arid, land-locked West African country in 1991. Toure, a former army officer, seized power in a coup and was forced out in 2012.
Francois Bozize – Central African Republic
The 71-year-old became a high-ranking army officer in the 1970s, under the rule of Jean-Bédel Bokassa, another dictator who was ousted in 1979. His problems started in 2011 and culminated into his overthrow in 2013.
Blaise Compaore – Burkina Faso
The 66-year-old was deposed in October 2014 following nationwide protests sparked by his efforts to extend his 27-year hold on power.
Charles Taylor – Liberia
Taylor took power in 1990 after deposing Samuel Doe who was brutally murdered and his genitals cut out, stepped down in 2003, handed over power to vice president Moses Blah and sought for asylum in Nigeria where he was arrested after attempting to escape. The 69-year-old is currently serving a prison term in UK having been convicted by a UN-backed court for war crimes and crimes against humanity over supporting rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone.
Kwame Nkrumah – Ghana
The first President of Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was unconstitutionally ousted from office through a military and police coup d’état on February 24, 1966. The coup was carried out by lower-ranking military officers and police officials with the direct assistance and coordination by external forces.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first woman to lead an African country. Her two terms in office ended with elections last monthsince, like the United States, presidents in Liberia are barred from serving more than two terms.
Affectionately known as “Ma Ellen,” Sirleaf took office at the end of a 14-year civil war in which an estimated 200,000 Liberians were killed.
Sickened and fatigued by war, thousands of Liberian women, through mass action, brought about an end to the conflict in 2003.
These same women took great risks to elect Sirleaf on her promise to sustain peace and make gender equality central to her administration’s agenda. Some women hid their sons’ voter ID cards to prevent them from voting for Sirleaf’s opponent; others tricked the young men into exchanging their cards for beer; still others managed market stalls while their female owners went to register to vote and watched babies so that mothers could vote on Election Day.
These women, many of whom belong to the Women in Peace Building Network (WIPNET), are identifiable by their white T-shirts with blue WIPNET insignia. They are a powerful, widely respected group for what they have accomplished and continue to fight for.
When Sirleaf came to power in 2005, the world was electrified. On Inauguration Day in January 2006, proud Liberians, world leaders and dignitaries watched as she took the oath of office.
Sirleaf singled out the women in the peace movement, thanking them for their courage, and committed to supporting their agenda. The Sirleaf administration kept some of its promises but with notable challenges. Liberia has tough rape laws, but weak enforcement mechanisms, and in 2016, Parliament signed into a law a new domestic violence bill but removed a ban on female genital mutilation.
At the end of Sirleaf’s two terms in office, peace has held, but the results of progress on gender equality are mixed.
Women and peace huts
Today, some of the powerful grassroots women who brought Sirleaf to power are at the forefront of running what are known as peace huts.Spread across the country, the purposes of these huts are to put women in charge of mediating domestic abuse and other disputes before they escalate, to empower women through entrepreneurial opportunities and to educate them about their rights.
By and large, Liberian women and girls are well aware of their rights, and especially those enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
Adopted in 2000, the resolution recognizes that women bear the brunt and horrors of war, and calls for women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building. Peace huts in Liberia are instrumental in teaching women — including those not formally educated — about these rights.
Peace huts work for gender equality, peace and human rights. But they do much more. The Ebola crisis of 2014 led to the deaths of an estimated 11,315 people and strained already fragile health-care systems. Women who ran peace huts in some of the communities stepped in to help the sick and dying, and some of them died in the process.
Gains and losses
There is general agreement among most Liberians that the Sirleaf administration stabilized the country and attracted investment. But there are those who also feel that, notwithstanding a staunch patriarchal culture, women have actually lost ground, especially in politics.
Of the 1,026 approved candidates in the election cycle, only 163 were women, and, in a field of 20 candidates, only one woman, Macdella Cooper, ran for president, and she lost badly.
Tackling corruption, infrastructure, youth unemployment and reconciliation by promoting national unity and advancing a peace agenda topped ballot issues in the elections.
Noticeably absent was a targeted focus on addressing violence against women and girls.
Yet the UN Women’s Global Database on Violence Against Women report that 39 per cent of Liberian women between 15-49 years old experience physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of intimate partners at least once in their lifetime.
Women who run peace huts spend much of their time supporting victims of gender-based violence. Where they are available, women work with the police to arrest the alleged perpetrators. But justice for victims is often hampered by a weak legal system.
Nonetheless, Liberian women rightly view themselves as the guardians of a hard-won peace connected to the fight for gender justice. They view peace as foundational to prosperity that can take root only if there is an end to gender-based violence and respect for rights.
An uncertain but hopeful future
The elections on Oct. 10 did not yield clear results. The frontrunners, Sen. George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boaki, were scheduled for a run-off election on Nov. 7. However, the Liberian Supreme Court recently suspended the second round of voting pending an investigation into allegations of “fraud and irregularities.”
It is, therefore, too early to tell if gender equality will top the new administration’s agenda, but there’s room for guarded optimism.
Large groups of activist women in Liberia are prepared to continue to fight for equality and are unafraid to do so. Wearing their WIPNET T-shirts, women have come out in force in recent years to press the government to change or implement laws, usually with the support of an engaged public.
The new administration would do well to work with women in the peace huts and in civil society to achieve success. Without a strong voice for gender equality, it’s unlikely that the new Liberian government will realize its political goals.
On October 4 an American Special Forces team was ambushed by a contingent of Islamic State affiliated fighters in Niger. Four American soldiers were killed and two wounded. The team of 12 soldiers was returning from a meeting with community leaders when it ran into a group of up to 50 terrorists.
The incident caused a furore in the US, sparking recollection of 1993’s “Black Hawk Down” incident in Somalia that saw 18 American soldiers killed. Questions were raised about how it was that four US soldiers died, why one of the bodies was retrieved only 48 hours after the ambush, and why US troops were in Niger in the first place. US President Donald Trump’s failure to address the matter with the necessary transparencyand sensitivity fuelled the agitation.
The Niger incident reaffirmed the need to ask important questions about US military presence in foreign territories and in this case, in Africa. African institutions that advocate for human security must continuously question the motives behind US military presence on the continent as well as its impact.
The US has an extensive military presence on the continent. In 2016 it was reported that its military had been involved with more than 90% of the 54 countries in Africa.
Two important and related questions arise following the Niger incident. Is the US military’s presence in Africa good or bad for Africa’s security? And is America pursuing the right strategy to combat terrorism on the continent? These are pertinent questions given that Africa is “the new battleground” in the fight against terrorism.
The US military’s presence in Africa is best understood in the wider context of America’s national security strategy. In establishing a military presence with global reach, the Americans are informed by what they call “forward strategy”. This is a national security policy shaped during the Cold War.
“Forward strategy” was based on the idea that establishing and maintaining a significant US military presence in close proximity to the former Soviet Union would discourage communist expansion. This encouraged the emergence of America’s global military footprint either through a physical presence or in the form of proxy forces belonging to sympathetic or opportunistic governments.
Africa had already featured in the story of the fight against terror, when in 1998 US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed by Al-Qaeda. In 2007, and following Bush’s declaration, the “United States Africa Command” (AFRICOM) was established as the ninth unified combatant command. AFRICOM was founded with the operational objective to neutralise violent extremist organisations and beef up regional security on the continent.
The US troop contingent in Niger is part of this effort. AFRICOM is also engaged in an array of supporting activities deemed necessary for ensuring regional security. These include foreign military sales, military education and training, provision of healthcare and veterinary services.
The US military’s strategic objective is underpinned by two ideals: the “economy of force” and “preventative war”. “Economy of force” refers to the idea that it’s more cost effective to train and equip African forces in the fight against terror than to commit extensive numbers of US troops. “Preventative war” centres on the argument that large wars can be avoided by fighting on smaller scales wherever necessary.
Citizens will pay a price
The danger is that, in some instances, citizens can bear the brunt of a US military presence that involves training and equipping of African forces. This is particularly true in countries where interventions, inadvertently perhaps, strengthen repressive state apparatus. On the other hand Africa’s gatekeepers – self-interested, ruling elites – have the means to ensure their own security. They control the state, and its access to foreign partnerships and aid, whether military or otherwise.
Various reports this year indicate that armed forces in a number of countries that host a US military presence have abused civilians. Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda are a few examples.
These sorts of situations have the potential to fuel fundamentalist backlash.
Is America’s strategy working?
What is the efficacy of the US’s military presence in Africa?
Research by the Institute for Security Studies suggests that heavy-handed anti-terrorism strategies breed insecurity by making fundamentalist organisations appear attractive to ordinary citizens. The exercise of what ordinary citizens perceive to be illegitimate force, on the part of state security institutions, increases the likelihood of those same citizens joining fundamentalist organisations.
But it seems these findings are being ignored. The danger is that if current patterns encouraged by the US military persist, countries are likely to experience an increase in extremism. This in turn is likely to perpetuate the heavy-handedness of already illiberal regimes and the vicious cycle of interventionism in Africa.
In the words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan,
Our responses to terrorism, as well as our efforts to thwart it and prevent it, should uphold the human rights that terrorists aim to destroy.