Africa in the news: Disputed election results in Mali and Zimbabwe, sanctions on South Sudan, and more

Opposition supporters carry banners and pictures of Soumaila Cisse, leader of opposition party URD (Union for the Republic and Democracy) as they protest along a street in Bamako, Mali August 16, 2018. REUTERS/Luc Gnago - RC1ED19D7F60

South Africa and Kenya tackle corruption

In February, during his first speech as president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa vowed to “turn the tide of corruption.” This week, the anti-corruption campaign ramped up as South Africa’s constitutional court ordered that the country’s chief prosecutor, Shaun Abrahams, be removed from office. The court’s argument is that Mr. Abrahams benefited from President Zuma’s abuse of power and thus should be removed from office. In 2015, President Zuma paid $687,000 to former state prosecutor, Mxolisi Nxasana, for him to step down and allow for the appointment of Mr. Abrahams to the post. The court ruled that the removal of Mr. Nxasana and the subsequent appointment of Mr. Abrahams was unconstitutional. The court also ordered Mr. Nxasana to repay $687,000 acquired from President Zuma.

In related news, on Monday, a Kenyan court charged officials with fraud over the new $3 billion railway, which is set to link Mombasa and Nairobi. The court states that mismanagement has led a $2.2 million loss in public funds. Kenya’s anti-corruption agency alleges that the officials have embezzled funds through fake compensation claims for the land used for the construction of the railway. The officials arrested include the chairman of the National Land Commission, Mohammed Swazuri, the director of the Kenta Railways Corporation, and 16 other businesspeople and companies, all of whom pleaded not guilty to graft charges.

Opposition parties dispute elections results in Mali and Zimbabwe

On Sunday, Malians went to the polls in a run-off election to determine the country’s next president in a context characterized by an array of security and economic challenges. The race pitted incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita against opposition candidate and former finance minister Soumaila Cisse—a repetition of the 2013 election in which Keita came to power. On Thursday, the government announced that Keita won the election with 67 percent of the vote. Voter turnout was low at 34 percent, compared to normal levels of participation at 40 percent. Security concerns contributed to the depressed vote, as threats by jihadist militants forced 500 polling stations (2 percent of the total number of stations) to close. Moreover, despite the prominent troop presence on Election Day, an election center in the Timbuktu region experienced an attack by suspected jihadists, during which an election official was killed.

Following the announcement of the election results, the opposition campaign chief, Tiebile Drame, stated that Cisse and his team would use “all democratic means” to dispute the results, which they claimed were fraudulent. Earlier in the week, on Monday, Cisse asserted that he would reject the results of the run-off, alleging that the government was responsible for vote rigging the initial election on July 29, as well as the run-off election. EU and AU poll observers, on the other hand, stated that although some voting irregularities were evident, conditions were generally acceptable and there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, this week the constitutional court stated that on Wednesday, August 22 it would hear the opposition party’s challenge to the presidential election results from the July 30 presidential vote. At that time, it will decide whether to throw out the opposition’s case, run a new election, or declare a new winner. The opposition party argues that “gross mathematical errors” gave President Emmerson Mnangagwa the narrow lead he needed to defeat opposition leader Nelson Chamisa in the poll. The electoral commission and Mnangagwa’s team refute the opposition party’s claims.

Sanctions and progress on peace in South Sudan

Last week, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced that the government would pardon former combatants of the country’s civil war, including rebel leader Riek Machar. As international pressure—from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and peace process mediators from Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)—has increased on the conflicting parties in recent months, the ongoing peace negotiation process has yielded some progress.

On Friday, July 13, UNSC imposed sanctions on South Sudan (after it had threatened to take serious measures in May) due to continued violations of peace agreements. The sanctions included an arms embargo to stem the flow of weapons into the country, as well as a travel ban and asset freeze of individuals charged with fueling violence in South Sudan until May 31, 2019. Then in late July President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar agreed to a permanent ceasefire and power-sharing agreement. The power-sharing arrangement involves establishing a transitional government, which will retain President Salva Kiir as president, promote Riek Machar to the role of one of five vice presidents, and include a 35-minister cabinet, comprised of 20 Kiir supporters, nine Machar backers, and six representatives of other political groups. The parliament will be made up of 550 lawmakers, with 322 seats allocated to the government, and 128 for the opposition, and the rest for other political parties. According to analysis from the Institute for Security Studies, the international pressure and sanctions have contributed to this outcome because, “They at least put pressure on the conflicting parties to accept the peace initiatives proposed by the IGAD mediators,” which paved the road for the permanent ceasefire and negotiations on the configuration of a transitional government.


Victoria Elikana contributed to this post.