Africa in the news: Strikes in Zimbabwe, DRC election update, and coup attempt in Gabon

Supporters of the runner-up in Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential election, Martin Fayulu hold a sign before a political rally in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, January 11, 2019. REUTERS/Baz Ratner - RC1F2DDA27B0

Public sector employees strike for better pay in Zimbabwe

This week, public school teachers in Zimbabwe began an indefinite strike demanding to be paid salaries in U.S. dollars. This follows a 40-day strike by doctors who returned to work this week without a new salary agreement with the government. Currently, public sector employees are paid in electronic dollars, which are quickly losing value as the country faces a shortage of physical cash. The Zimbabwean economy has periodically faced cash shortages since the country adopted the U.S. dollar in 2009. Zimbabwe’s Apex Council, a representative body for 16 public sector unions, filed a two-week notice of industrial action on Tuesday that could lead to more employees joining the strikes in coming weeks.

On Thursday, unions rejected the government’s proposal for a 10 percent raise starting in April. Addressing the rejected offer, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association president noted, “The expectation was that there would be a cost-of-living adjustment commensurate with inflation with immediate effect.” The currency crisis has caused inflation to soar, hitting 31 percent in November, a 10-year high. The currency crisis has also exacerbated a fuel shortage with black market prices for petrol reaching $5 per liter compared to the market price of $1.40.

Opposition candidate wins contested DRC election

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s election commission announced that opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi won the presidential election held two weeks prior. The results, originally planned to be released on Sunday, were announced early on Thursday morning. According to official results, Felix Tshisekedi received 38 percent of the vote, with opposition candidate Martin Fayulu in second with 34 percent, and ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was in third with 23 percent.

Following the results, Fayulu accused Tshisekedi of having negotiated the election with Kabila, saying, “It’s Kabila who’ll manage things, these people have no power.” On Friday, Fayulu announced that he would dispute the results in the country’s constitutional court. According to law, the court will have 7 days to return a verdict on the case.

The Roman Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and, earlier this week, hinted that Fayulu had won the election, rejecting the official results published by the election commission. Pre-election polls had also found Fayulu leading by a wide margin. According to reports, protests and violence have been limited with three deaths reported in Kikwit, a major Fayulu stronghold. Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom all raised concerns about the results, and the issue is likely to be brought up during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday. The African Union, European Union, and United Nations have all called for calm and a peaceful resolution of any disputes.

Failed Coup Attempt in Gabon

On Monday, an attempted coup was quickly quashed in Gabon. Staged in Libreville, the coup was motivated by the absence of President Ali Bongo Ondimba who has been in Morocco since October receiving medical treatment. The episode began early in the morning, when songs from the campaign of Jean Ping, Mr. Bongo’s chief opponent in the 2016 presidential election, were broadcast over national radio. When authorities called the station, Lt. Kelly Ondo Obiang, leader of the self-declared Patriotic Movement of the Defense and Security Forces of Gabon, answered and announced a coup would follow shortly. According to reports, the coup plotters were low-ranking military officers.

The military responded quickly and stormed the station to shut down the operation. Eight suspects were arrested while two others died. The military also fired tear gas outside the station to disperse a crowd that had gathered to support the coup attempt. According to Reuters, there was a strong military and police presence across the city, and residents reported that the internet was down. The international community, including the African Union and the United Nations, condemned the coup attempt, calling it unconstitutional.