A Look Ahead to June 2018

The Beautiful Game Turns Ugly in Ghana

On 6th June, renowned undercover investigative journalist – Anas Aremeyaw Anas – will premier his new documentary in Accra entitled ‘Number 12’. After previously exposing corruption in Ghana’s police service, passport office and, most famously, the judiciary, Anas has turned his attention to the Ghana Football Association (GFA). Anas has said that he hopes that ‘Number 12’ will provide a “fresh start” for Ghana’s “tainted football system” and, given the fallout from his last exposé, it is likely that June will be an eventful month for the GFA. In the wake of his documentary on the judiciary in 2015, scores of judges and magistrates were suspended or sacked, and similar actions are expected at the GFA. Moreover, there are rumours that politicians and other government officials may be implicated in the documentary.

Given that President Nana Akufo-Addo was elected on an anti-corruption platform, ‘Number 12’ is seen as an important test of the administration’s commitment to this. And, thus far, it appears that the government is passing the test. After reportedly viewing part of the documentary in late May, Akufo-Addo called for the arrest of the GFA’s president – Kwesi Nyantakyi – on the grounds of “defrauding by false pretences”. It was reported that Nyantakyi allegedly offered access to the president and other senior government officials, in return for money. Akufo-Addo’s quick response was likely a reaction to the potential damage such an allegation could do to his anti-corruption credentials. However, it remains to be seen whether he will adopt this uncompromising approach to other individuals identified in the documentary, especially those with closer links to his party. Akufo-Addo has been praised for appointing a senior opposition figure in the newly created role of Special Prosecutor and it is hoped that this will prevent the government from adopting a politically partisan approach to anti-corruption, of which other governments in the region have been accused. Consequently, there are strong signs that those that are implicated will be properly investigated, no matter their political allegiance.

While ‘Number 12’ is set to reveal the ugly side of football in Ghana, its release further demonstrates the vibrancy of investigative journalism and anti-corruption activism in the country, which is seemingly supported by a government that is committed to improving Ghana’s international image.

Will Guinea-Bissau cope without ECOWAS’s guiding hand?

For the last three years, Guinea-Bissau’s government has been prevented from serving its purpose by a continuation of political crises. These were sparked by President Jose Mario Vaz’s decision to remove Domingos Pereira as prime minister in August 2015, which was opposed by the majority of the ruling party – Partido Africano da Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC). Vaz and the rest of his party (PAIGC) were unable to agree on a new prime minister and, given Guinea-Bissau’s tumultuous history, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) quickly assumed the role of regional arbitrator, brokering a deal between the two sides. While this deal looked promising, it was broken by Vaz in December 2017, which led to ECOWAS imposing sanctions on individuals connected to the president, including his son. This was evidently an effective tactic as, following the imposition of sanctions, there was a breakthrough in negotiations and, on 17th April, Aristides Gomes was appointed prime minister and the government resumed its activities.

This was another success for ECOWAS, which is becoming increasingly effective at upholding democracy in the region. However, as Guinea-Bissau looks ahead to its legislative election in November 2018, it is slightly concerning that the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau (ECOMIB) will be withdrawn before the end of June. As voter registration has already started, it is likely that the coming months will experience an increase in political tension and the divide in the ruling party will be tested further. Considering the country’s recent experiences of political violence, the lack of ECOWAS’s presence in the country may see a resurgence in instability ahead of the election. An extension of ECOMIB’s mandate would allay these fears and help to create an environment which is conducive for a peaceful election. Without ECOMIB, the lead up to the election will be an important test of the resilience of Guinea-Bissau’s democratic system.

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ECOWAS Mediates as Jammeh Clings On

On 13th January, an ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) mediation mission led by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is expected in The Gambia’s capital – Banjul – in order to try and negotiate a peaceful democratic transition following last month’s disputed election. The surprise result, which saw the opposition coalition candidate, Adama Barrow, defeat the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, was followed by Jammeh conceding defeat live on television, which was possibly even more surprising than the vote itself. However, this initial sign of optimism for Gambian democracy was short-lived, as Jammeh quickly reversed his acceptance and lodged a complaint with the Supreme Court.

Consequently, the military has increased its presence in Gambia and particularly on the streets of Banjul. The armed forces took control of the Electoral Commission’s office and the Commission’s Chief, Alieu Momar Njai, has gone into hiding. Despite initial positive changes following the election result, the repressive tactics adopted by the government during the election campaign are once again dominating Gambia’s political environment. This is illustrated by the closure of four private radio stations since the start of the New Year.

Jammeh’s refusal to accept last month’s election result has attracted widespread criticism from the international community. The UN, AU and ECOWAS have condemned Jammeh’s actions and the UN Security Council called on Jammeh to “respect the choice of the sovereign people of The Gambia”. It is clear that such organisations fear that Jammeh’s refusal to accept the result could cause large scale political violence. This was demonstrated by the UN Security Council’s decision to urge all parties to exercise “maximum restraint, refrain from violence and remain calm”.

The ECOWAS mediation mission is seen as the most promising method of preventing such political violence. On the 8th January, Liberian President, and member of the mission, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stated that the organisation is “committed to a peaceful mediation and a peaceful transfer of power”. When questioned on ECOWAS’ willingness to use force, she responded by stating “no, we want to keep the region peaceful”. However, only two days later, Nigerian Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, told Radio France Internationale (RFI) that “we’re not ruling anything out”, when questioned on military intervention, and it has been reported that Senegal is prepared to send troops to intervene if the situation deteriorates. Thus, although it is not clear if ECOWAS will ultimately intervene, it seems that it is willing to take a tough stance towards Jammeh.

This is significant as in The Gambia it is not clear how much support Jammeh will be able to muster if he refuses to step down. On 10th January, Jammeh’s Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, resigned and fled to Senegal stating that through using a “veneer of constitutionalism”, Jammeh is attempting to “subvert the express will of the Gambian electorate”. This followed the less pronounced resignation of Gambia’s Foreign Minister, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, in December 2016. Although pro-Government media in The Gambia made much of the Army Chief’s renewed “assurance of the unflinching loyalty and support of The Gambian Armed Forces” to Jammeh, questions have been raised about Lieutenant-General Ousman Badjie’s motivations and it is not clear if such support exists amongst the military more widely. Thus, it seems that pressure is mounting on Jammeh to step down as political tensions continue to rise.

The announcement on 10th January by Gambia’s Chief Justice, Emmanuel Fagbenle, that the Supreme Court cannot rule on Jammeh’s challenge to the electoral result until May has increased tension in the country further. This is due to the fact that Gambia’s Supreme Court relies on judges seconded from other countries, including Fagbenle, who is Nigerian. As a result, Jammeh’s legal challenge will not be dealt with until after the end of his term, increasing the likelihood that he will refuse to step down.

Jammeh’s mandate is set to end on 18th January and it seems unlikely that he will relinquish power peacefully. Although it is possible that Jammeh is merely trying to negotiate the transfer of power in order to prevent himself from being tried for human rights abuses under a new government, if he remains as president past 18th January, it is likely to cause widespread unrest. It appears that a lot rests on ECOWAS’ mediation mission to try to find a peaceful solution as tensions continue to rise.

Guinea-Bissau’s Political Crisis

Guinea-Bissau’s most recent cabinet lasted less than 48 hours as a political crisis continues in the country. On 9th September 2015, the Prime Minister – Baciro Dja – resigned after only 20 days in the post following a Supreme Court ruling that his appointment was unconstitutional. On 10th September 2015, Dja’s cabinet was similarly dismissed.

The current political crisis stems from a power struggle between President José Mário Vaz and former Prime Minister Domingos Simões Pereira within the country’s semi-presidential system. On 12th August 2015, Vaz dismissed Pereira and his cabinet stating that there had been a “breach of trust”. Tensions between the two men, which have been present for a while, are said to have increased in the weeks leading up to Pereira’s dismissal. It has been reported that such tensions were predominantly caused by disagreements over the use of aid funds and the appointment of a new army chief of staff. This is of particular importance in Guinea-Bissau considering the role the armed forces have played in the country’s politics. Since 1980, there have been nine coups or attempted coups, with the most recent taking place in April 2012. As this coup was led by the former army chief of staff – Antonio Indjai – it is clear that the support of the holder of this position is extremely important to the president. Although the military have made a commitment to neutrality, Guinea-Bissau’s recent history will undoubtedly influence Vaz’s decision making. It appears that Vaz’s dismissal of Pereira was an attempt to not only exert his political authority but also secure his position in relation to the armed forces.

Nevertheless, Pereira’s dismissal was met with fierce opposition from his, and Vaz’s, political party – the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). On 15th August, PAIGC responded by re-nominating Pereira as the party’s candidate for prime minister. PAIGC’s vice-president – Adja Satu Camara – said that the party was nominating Pereira as he is the President of the PAIGC and added that if his nomination is rejected by Vaz, the party would pursue other available options. Moreover, thousands of PAIGC supporters took to the streets in protest against the decision. At one demonstration, Pereira addressed the crowds stating that “with such a huge mobilization…the institutions of the republic must respect the will of the people”.

However, it seems that Vaz ignored the “will of the people” and his own party and rejected Pereira’s re-nomination. Instead he announced on 20th August that Baciro Dja – a former minister and government spokesman – would be Guinea-Bissau’s new prime minister. The PAIGC responded by calling for further protests in the capital Bissau and put forward a proposal to the National Assembly for the removal of Dja. On 24th August, the National Assembly adopted a resolution to “attempt actions with a view to deposing the new prime minister”. This was supported by 75 of 79 members present from the 102-seat parliament.  Nonetheless, Vaz ignored the resolution and named a new cabinet on 8th September with support from Guinea-Bissau’s second largest political party – the Party for Social Renewal (PRS). Although Dja described this as “an alliance sanctioned by the formal recognition of the judicial authorities”, the next day the Supreme Court found his appointment unconstitutional, which undermined the legitimacy of the new cabinet. As a result, Vaz dismissed the cabinet the following day.

Thus, at the time of writing, Guinea-Bissau has neither a prime minister nor a cabinet. The United Nations (UN) has called on Vaz and Pereira to seek dialogue and consensus in order to resolve the crisis. Due to Guinea-Bissau’s tumultuous past, it has only recently been reaccepted by the international community. It was only in March 2015 that the European Union (EU) restored ties with the country. Due to this restoration of ties, Guinea-Bissau was able to secure €1 billion in financing. However, Portugal – Guinea-Bissau’s former colonial ruler – has warned that the recent political instability could endanger such assistance. The Portuguese foreign ministry stated that “it would be extremely difficult for the international community to keep providing the co-operation and support that Guinea-Bissau needs”.

Additionally, there are fears that if the political crisis continues, the country’s armed forces may attempt to provide a solution. International organisations such as the UN, EU and ECOWAS have all warned the army to stay out of the political crisis and, at the time of writing, it appears to have respected those wishes. A UN envoy – Miguel Trovoada – told the UN Security Council that “the military has stressed that they are determined to stay totally out of politics”. This was supported by Guinea-Bissau’s ambassador to the UN – Joan Soares Da Gama – who said that “they [the military] will maintain this attitude of non-interference”. Nevertheless, the longer this crisis continues the more likely it is that the military will intervene. Although this will undoubtedly cost the country, both diplomatically and financially, if the political crisis leads to social unrest there is a possibility that the military will no longer remain neutral.

Thus, it seems that Vaz and Pereira are under significant pressure to resolve this crisis as quickly as possible. Although the re-appointment of Pereira will be a political blow to Vaz, it’s highly unlikely that he will be able to find a palatable alternative for the PAIGC and the National Assembly. Furthermore, by allowing the crisis to continue, Vaz could weaken the position he was originally attempting to strengthen concerning his relationship with the military. Vaz’s actions over the coming days and weeks will not only affect his political future but also Guinea-Bissau’s.                

Togo Election Preview

On 25th April 2015 Togo will go to the polls in an election which sees the incumbent, President Faure Gnassingbé, attempt to extend his family’s rule of the country into a sixth decade. A recent report by the Tournons La Page (Turn the Page) campaign group noted that 88 percent of the Togolese population have only known one ruling family and it seems likely that this percentage will continue to rise.

In February 2015, the ruling l’Union pour la République (UNIR) selected Gnassingbé as their presidential candidate despite demands from opposition parties for a presidential term limit which would have prevented Gnassingbé from running. In 2014, this call for a presidential term limit became a rallying cry for Togo’s various opposition parties and a proposal was put before the country’s national assembly in June 2014. However, the odds were definitely stacked against the opposition, which needed 80 percent of the national assembly – where the UNIR hold 62 of the 91 seats – to vote with them to alter the constitution. Unsurprisingly, the proposal was rejected. Following this, the opposition parties focussed on cultivating popular support for the cause, which was given impetus by the formation of the coalition Combat pour l’Alternance Politique (CAP) party in October 2014. This was demonstrated in November 2014, when large scale protests broke out in Lomé. It was reported that thousands took to the streets to call for constitutional change and were met by a heavy police presence. Togo’s Security and Civil Protection Ministry announced on state television that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent demonstrators from reaching Togo’s parliament and the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the protests.

Although further demonstrations took place in late November and early December, the turnout was reportedly considerably smaller on both occasions. Nonetheless, the opposition managed to organise negotiations with the ruling party over constitutional changes in January 2015. These soon broke down as it became clear that the UNIR was not willing to discuss presidential term limits and both the opposition and the ruling party blamed each other for the breakdown in negotiations. Nevertheless, presidential term limits and constitutional change remain a key aspect of Gnassingbé’s closest competitor’s campaign. CAP’s presidential candidate, Jean-Pierre Fabre, has stated that he is committed to constitutional reform which would weaken the position of the presidency. This would not only include imposing a presidential term limit of two five year terms but also a strengthening of the power of the prime minister. Thus, term limits remain a key topic of this year’s election.

Fabre also ran against Gnassingbé in 2010 and secured 33.9 percent of the vote under the Union des Forces du Changement (UFC) party; he subsequently challenged the legitimacy of the election and declared himself the winner. Although the creation of the CAP coalition has definitely improved Fabre’s chances of challenging Gnassingbé through uniting different parties, the opposition remains divided. This even includes on matters such as whether to compete in the election as six smaller parties, and influential civil society groups such as Organisations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme, are calling for a boycott. There is certainly rising discontent over Gnassingbé’s continued rule, as shown by a recent teachers’ strike in March 2015 which drew hundreds of supporters, but it’s questionable whether this will equate to votes for Fabre.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that Gnassingbé and the UNIR will allow themselves to be removed from power through the ballot box. The government has demonstrated its willingness to use force to impose its rule and this was again shown in March 2015 when the army was called to support the police in response to the teachers’ strike. In preparation for Election Day the government announced that the armed forces will vote on 22nd April so as to allow them to provide security on 25th April, and Gnassingbé replaced the head of a special 8000 strong election security team (FOSEP) by presidential decree on 16th April. Although it has been reported that the former head of FOSEP was suffering from ill health, the decision still demonstrates Gnassingbé’s focus on election security. Thus, it appears that Gnassingbé is bolstering his position in terms of security in anticipation of opposition to his expected victory. Moreover, despite the 10 day delay to the election due to irregularities concerning the voter registration list – which has been resolved by International mediators – there remains a strong possibility of electoral fraud based upon previous elections.

Thus, Togo’s election and post-election atmosphere could be quite tense. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced that it will send 100 election observers to Togo for the election and the group’s chairman, Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, has warned that “the whole international community will be watching you”. Mahama also added that all candidates must be prepared to accept the election results and that there can be “only one winner”. This statement is presumably aimed at Fabre after the election in 2010. Nevertheless, it is likely that Fabre will challenge Saturday’s election result if he loses again as he approaches this election in a stronger position politically than in 2010. If this results in protests, they will undoubtedly be met by a security crackdown for which Gnassingbé appears to be preparing. Although similar protests were predominantly peaceful in 2010, there is a possibility that if protests do arise they may see a return to post-election violence like that seen in 2005.