Africa Watch

Africa must take on the challenge in 2018

DRC President Kabila
Kabila.JPG

Politically and economically Africa is on the move, but acceleration is possible if some of the challenges are met head on.

Looking ahead Africa will be challenged on many fronts in the coming year.

 Finding acceptable and lasting solutions to political instability in various corners of the continent will be paramount. Arguably the most pressing remains the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The intransigence of President Kabila to obey the constitution, step down and allow for fair and free elections, and his stubbornness is not only to the detriment of the country but also creates favourable conditions for escalating political unrest and social instability in the volatile Great Lakes region of central Africa.

The upsurge in political violence, and the Kabila government’s brutal clamp down on opposition led protests late last year is a worrying sign that the DRC might be hovering on the brink of exploding in to civil war. Many people are already seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The consequences of an DRC implosion will be enormous for the region and the continent.

With the focus firmly locked on the DRC, less attention is paid to events in the Central African Republic (CAR) where the situation is steadily spiraling out of control.

The same holds true for Sudan where the prognosis remains the same as it was for the last number of years. Reports and eye witness accounts continue to describe conditions as of the worst on the planet, with little if any hope for improvement.

South Sudan allegedly needs R20.9 billion in aid to avoid economic collapse, but with donor fatigue and with little prominent media coverage, there is little chance anyone will come to the rescue with the required assistance.

Terrorism

Terrorism, closely linked to religious fanaticism, will remain a serious threat, particularly in North Africa where such acts of terrorism have become the norm.

While France’s substantially increased military presence and assistance in the terror affected countries of North Africa, combined with United States support via Africom, might deter but not eradicate the terror threat from the region.

Conditions, particularly the woeful socio-economic circumstances under which the majority of the region’s population live, make them easy recruits for the many terrorist groups active in the region.  

The military option, which seems the favoured one of most African governments, will not solve the threat.

North Africa will certainly suffer more terror attacks in the coming year and the rest of the continent will be mistaken if they disallow constant vigilance and preparedness for such attacks. History has shown that in the past terrorists have struck in the most unusual and unexpected places – 2018 will be no exception. 

Political reform

The dramatic developments in Zimbabwe late last year when the military staged an unexpected and extraordinary peaceful coup to oust the seemingly unshakable Robert Mugabe, the only president the country has known since independence, created much expectations on a wider front in Africa.

The removal of Mugabe and the destructive legacy of his 37-years in power, drew attention to the problems caused by the paralyzing consequences of long-term regimes.

There is no doubt that the way in which Mugabe was removed from power will motivate people of other countries suffering the same fate, to seek similar conclusions with renewed vigor.   

The first signs of attempts to copy the Zimbabwe experiment already occurred last year when a Togo opposition leader expressed hope “for a Zimbabwean-type change of power” to end the half a century long family rule of President Eyadéma.

The military’s success in Zimbabwe probably also motivated last month’s failed military coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea to end the 40-year rule of Africa’s longest serving president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Mugabe’s surprisingly meek capitulation must have unsettled Africa’s remaining long serving heads of state and the struggle between them and those demanding their departure, could become one of the major issues of 2018.

One such long serving head of state, Uganda’s president Museveni, also in power for more than three decades, has already acted to try and safeguard his rule.

 Notwithstanding an economy that can ill afford it, President Museveni  promised pay hikes to the civil servants and the military, and last week the Ugandan media reported that Museveni has signed into law a bill that removes a presidential age limit from the constitution to allow him to run for elections as long as he wants.

Migration

In an article, What needs to be done to make Africa politically stable, Jakkie Cilliers of the  Institute for Security Studies recently wrote: “In the long term only rapid, inclusive economic growth combined with good governance can make Africa less volatile,” which is true but much easier said than done.

Attaining this goal will do much to help end to one of the most unfortunate trends in today’s world – the mass exodus of thousands of people via a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean Sea seeking a better life in Europe.

Recently released figures by The International Organization for Migration revealed that the number of people, who died crossing the Mediterranean, the world's deadliest border, surpassed 3,000 for the fourth year in a row.

More than 33,000 people have died at sea trying to enter Europe since 2000 but notwithstanding all the hazards they still take the chance.

The desperate circumstances and the vulnerability of those trying to escape a life of no hope and misery in Africa, but unwelcome elsewhere, have given rise to an unprecedented upsurge in human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Some positives

However, there are also positives and Africa is on the move as democracy and economic growth progresses step by step. The pace could however speed up with acknowledging, and seeking answers, to the challenges in the coming year.

by Garth Cilliers

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