American democracy is under threat. How do we protect it?


American democracy is under threat. How do we protect it?


Africa in the News: Mozambique Votes, EAC Signs Trade Agreement with EU and IEA Calls for More Energy Investments

Mozambique Votes in General Elections

Two days after Mozambicans voted in Wednesday’s legislative and presidential elections, the initial results show that the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) party, which has governed the country since its independence from Portugal in 1975, is expected to win, as it has 62 percent of the vote with one-third of the ballots counted. Though the full results are not expected for another two weeks, on Thursday, October 16 the main opposition party, the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo), already rejected the results, alleging that Frelimo engaged in ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. Electoral observers from the African Union and Southern African Development Community have called the elections largely peaceful and fair. A spokesman for the national Electoral Commission, however, confirmed that a few minor incidents took place at the polls, including the use of tear gas by police against crowds of people in the opposition-supporting towns of Beira and Nampula who were attempting to watch the tabulation of votes (watching the counting is illegal under Mozambican law). Furthermore, Renamo claims that its poll monitors were barred from observing voting, and European Union observers confirm that Renamo poll monitors were absent from nearly 34 percent of polling stations.

The Frelimo and Renamo parties fought each other in a 16-year civil conflict that ended in 1992. While Renamo’s low-level insurgency resurfaced in 2013, a few weeks before this year’s elections, the Renamo presidential candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, came out of hiding and signed a peace agreement. The current President Armando Guebuza (of the Frelimo party) is barred from running for a third time by a constitutional term limit, so former Defense Minister Filipe Nyusi is the Frelimo candidate.

According to numerous reports, the outcome of this election is crucial to the consolidation of peace. Some say violence may reignite if the results are heavily disputed. However, Dhlakama has vowed that there will not be a return to war.

EAC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement Is Signed

On Tuesday, the East African Community (EAC) and the European Union (EU) signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), allowing EAC countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda) duty-free access to European markets. This agreement comes two weeks after the stated deadline of October 1, at which time EAC countries lost their duty-free status that they held under an interim agreement. Since the deadline passed, most EAC countries retained their duty-free preferences with Europe through the Everything But Arms agreement, which gives countries considered to be Least Developing Countries duty-free access to Europe as well. However, Kenya—the only country that does not fall under the Everything But Arms preference—began owing taxes under the Generalized System of Preferences when it lost its status under the interim EPA agreement. Many Kenyan exporters have expressed relief at the culmination of the EAC-EU deal, though observers have noted that Kenya will continue paying taxes until the agreement is finally ratified and implemented, which could take up to four months and cost exporters more than $40 million (3.6 billion Kenyan shillings). 

International Energy Agency Reports on Energy Gaps in Africa

The Africa Energy Outlook report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Monday contends that greater investment in energy infrastructure (specifically geared toward domestic resource provision) is critical to increasing the supply of energy across the continent. According to the report, access to electricity is expected to expand to approximately one billion people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2040, up from 290 million today. Still, population growth and an increase in demand for electricity (estimated to grow by 80 percent) could outpace the growth in coverage, so that more than half a billion people will be left without electricity in 2040. To reduce this electricity gap, the IEA suggests that $450 billion of investment in the power sector (over the next 25 years) and deeper cooperation in regional energy infrastructure and revenue management systems will be necessary. Furthermore, the report finds that renewable energy resources will account for over half of new growth in electricity generation while demand for oil will still continue to increase, doubling to 4 million barrels a day by 2040.

Nigerian Government Negotiates Release of Chibok Girls, Signs Ceasefire with Boko Haram

After six months in captivity, the 219 schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in Borno state by members of Boko Haram are expected to be freed as a part of an agreement reached between the extremist group and the Nigerian government. Although the exact location and condition of the girls remain unknown, a spokesperson from the Nigerian government stated in a news conference that representatives of Boko Haram “assured that the schoolgirls and all other people in their captivity are all alive and well.” According to Voice of America, the two parties reached a ceasefire that will go into effect immediately as of Friday, October 17.

Border Closures Over Ebola Fuel Debates

As countries in West Africa (as well as around the world) continue to tighten travel restrictions in response to the devastating Ebola outbreak, the debate surrounding the effectiveness and negative externalities of these bans continues. Although some experts claim that closing borders and limiting mobility is necessary to breaking the chain of transmission, others argue that closing borders will not halt the spread of the disease, but rather exacerbate it: Closures isolate countries, increasing societies’ distrust of the government, intensifying noncooperation with health care workers, and blocking the flow of essential goods and health care workers to the region. Some American experts have also argued that closing U.S. borders would force emigrants through European airports, actually making the disease harder to track. Africa Growth Initiative Fellow Witney Schneidman argues against isolation in a recent piece for U.S. News. In another piece, he also encourages the U.S. government to incentivize and assist the private sector, with its advanced supply chains and quick response times, to aid in the crisis.