A Look Ahead to March 2018

A Three Horse Race in Sierra Leone

On 7th March 2018, Sierra Leone will go to the polls to vote for the country’s next president. The incumbent – Ernest Bai Koroma – of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) is standing down after serving two terms, in line with the country’s constitution. Although he will no longer serve as president, sources from within the APC have informed Africa Integrity that Koroma wants to continue to influence the new administration, if the APC are victorious. This is illustrated by both his role in the selection of the APC’s presidential candidate and his desire to continue as chairman of the party. Although the party’s candidate was meant to be chosen through a democratic process, Koroma unilaterally selected the Minister of Foreign Affairs – Samura Kamara – as the APC’s candidate. Thus, it seems that, if Kamara wins, he will maintain the status quo and it is likely that Koroma will continue to govern from behind the scenes.

Kamara will face 15 candidates from other parties in the election, but only two are likely to pose real competition. These are Julius Maada Bio from the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), who also ran in 2012, and Kandeh Yumkella from the newly formed National Grand Coalition (NGC). Outside of military rule, Sierra Leonean politics has been dominated by the APC and SLPP. However, since Yumkella left the SLPP in September 2017 and formed the NGC, there are indications that this is starting to change. He has shown himself to be a very popular candidate in urban Sierra Leone, particularly in Freetown, where he has been drawing large crowds of supporters. The APC are evidently concerned about the threat posed by Yumkella and have petitioned the Supreme Court to bar him from taking part in the election because of his previous dual citizenship. This attempt has already been dismissed by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and it is likely that the Supreme Court will follow suit. Although it is unlikely that Yumkella will be able to win the election outright, due to the established bases of the APC and SLPP, by turning the election into a three-horse race, it is highly likely that it will go to a run-off. In such a scenario, Yumkella will be an in a very influential position.

While there have been some instances of political violence during the campaign, these have tended to be isolated and there is not a significant threat of unrest. Importantly, the NEC is considered an independent organisation and the country’s recent elections have all been deemed credible. However, this is the first election since the departure of the UN Mission in 2014 and, given the APC’s attempt to prevent Yumkella from standing, if it goes to a run-off, political tensions will be very high, which could cause isolated instances of unrest and violence.

Time’s up for Zimbabweans on Mnangagwa’s Name and Shame List

In late November 2017, Zimbabwe’s new president – Emmerson Mnangagwa – declared an amnesty for individuals and companies involved in the misappropriation of public funds and the illegal externalisation of this money. He stated that “The government of Zimbabwe is gazetting a three-month moratorium within which those involved in the malpractice can bring back the funds and assets, with no questions being asked or charges preferred against them”. However, he said that “upon expiry of the three-month window, the government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws”. At a Zanu-PF Central Committee meeting in December 2017, Mnangagwa added that “I have a list of who took money out. So, in March when the period expires, those who would not have heeded my moratorium I will name and shame them”. Consequently, it appears that time is up for those on Mnangagwa’s “list”. Although such an anti-corruption initiative will have a positive effect, given Mnangagwa’s chequered past, it seems unlikely that this will be a comprehensive initiative. Rather, there is a strong possibility that Mnangagwa will use this opportunity to damage the reputations of potential adversaries, particularly within Zanu-PF, ahead of this year’s election.

Sissi Set for Another Victory in Egypt

On 26th March 2018, Egypt will hold its second presidential election since the 2013 coup, which removed the country’s first democratically elected president – Mohamed Morsi. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who secured over 95 percent of the vote in 2014, is the favourite to win the election and will face only one contender – Moussa Mostafa Moussa – the leader of the El-Ghad Party. Although a number of candidates intended to run against Sissi, Moussa was the only one to officially submit his candidacy. Many of the other candidates were forced to drop out of the race due to threats from the government, and some were even arrested. Consequently, the remaining opposition candidates declared a boycott of the election. Despite proclaiming that he “will not be a background actor”, most oppositionists do not consider Moussa a genuine candidate because of his support of Sissi. Rather, he is seen as merely standing in order to provide an air of legitimacy to the election.

The government has been heavily criticised for its treatment of opposition candidates by human rights groups. It has been accused of exploiting its counterterrorism laws to stifle opposition activities and conduct arbitrary arrests. Such arrests are continuing to take place as Egypt’s Prosecutor General has called for investigations into the parties boycotting the election. Interestingly, those prevented from running in the election included senior military figures, such as retired Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Anan, who was arrested after announcing his intention to stand, and Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, who was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for expressing political opinions as a serving officer. This restriction of Egypt’s democratic space, alongside the persecution of senior military figures, has the potential to cause problems for Sissi in the medium term, as groups are increasingly likely to reject the democratic process as a means of expressing political opinion.

While there is no doubt that Sissi will win this month’s election, the tactics adopted by the government and security services, although effective in impeding the opposition in the short-term, could create serious problems going forward. As the government struggles to reduce the growing terrorism threat emanating from the Sinai region, pressure on Sissi will increase during his second term, which could lead to unrest and political instability.

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