African review 2011

Elections were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 28, 2011 and in Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC, the largest country in Africa as well as one of the poorest countries in the world, held general elections on November 28, 2011. The DRC, with its mineral wealth, could have the potential to be one of Africa’s richest countries, but corrupt incompetent governments succeeded by decades of civil war have ravaged the DRC’s economy and left it as one of the world’s poorest countries. In 2011, it had the lowest HDI in the world at only 0.286 and over 70% of the population live under the poverty line. The life expectancy is merely 48 years old.

Since 1996, the country which had since 1965 been ruled by anti-communist dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and known since 1971 as Zaire, has been in and out of civil wars. In 1996-1997, rebel forces and Tutsi militias allied with Rwanda and Uganda invaded the country and quickly overthrew Mobutu. In 1998, however, the new President and former rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila turned against his Rwandan Tutsi allies who were plotting to place their hands on the country’s mineral resources. The second conflict in less than a year opposed Kabila, now backed by Rwandan Hutu rebels (as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Chad), to two main rebel groups ostensibly created by Rwanda’s Tutsi government, Uganda and Burundi to a lesser extent. Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and replaced by his son Joseph, who progressively ended the conflict with Rwanda and Uganda by 2003. After a transitional government and a new constitution, the first free elections since 1960 were held in 2006, resulting in Joseph Kabila’s controversial victory over former Ugandan-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The state apparatus has incomplete control over the country and the country remains wracked by remaining violence in Kivu, Ituri and Katanga as well as serious human rights abuses, sexual violence, looting, widespread disease and famine and millions of refugees. Kabila can either be seen as an observer without any power to turn things around or as a culprit turning a blind eye to his country’s ruin. At any rate, corruption remains rampant in one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

Kabila’s main rival in this election was Étienne Tshisekedi, a crippled former PM and ex-opposition leader who is dying of cancer. Tshisekedi’s main campaign plank was that he was already President because of popular will and the elections could not change that. Other candidates included the President of the Senate Léon Kengo, former Kabila ally Vital Kamerhe and Mobutu’s son Nzanga Mobutu. The official results place turnout 58.81%. While there have been tons of irregularities all over the huge country, it seems as if most people accept that Tshisekedi lost. The government had done away with the need for a runoff. The results are basically:

Joseph Kabila 48.95%
Etienne Tshisekedi 32.33%
Vital Kamerhe 7.74%
Leon Kengo 4.95%
Mbusa Nyamwisi 1.72%
Nzanga Mobutu 1.57%

The 2006 election had seen a fragmented vote in the first round and a country divided along east-west lines in the runoff between Kabila and Bemba. According to a map posted on Electoral Geography, the division this year is pretty similar. Kabila, who is from the Kivu region, took all the Swahili speaking regions – which are basically Katanga, the Kivus, Maniema and Ituri. In the Kivu region, although being his family’s native region, he was severely weakened by Vital Kamerhe’s candidacy, which won 41.7% in the Sud Kivu against 44.7% for Kabila. Tshisekedi dominated in the Tshiluba-speaking Kasai, his native region. He performed well in most Lingala and Kikongo-speaking regions, save for part of the Equateur Province where favourite son Leon Kengo dominated the Ngbandi region. The main exception is Bandudu, or at least the main bulk of it, which was absolutely owned by Kabila. This Kikongo – actually KiTuba – speaking region had voted for favourite son Antoine Gizenga, who is now a Kabila ally in 2006. Gizenga’s tribal support likely went heavily to his ally this year.

Tshisekedi has continued calling himself the legitimate President, but he has been placed under house arrest which might control the situation and prevent the country from going up in fire yet again.

I have found no result for the legislative elections, but Kabila’s allies likely won.

Côte d’Ivoire

Legislative elections were held in the Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011. I had covered last year’s election here (preview), here (first round), here (runoff) and here (map). Since those posts, the country went up in fire for a short-lived civil war which ultimately saw the rapid victory of the election’s likely winner, Alassane Ouattara, backed by the international community, over former President Laurent Gbagbo who was captured by Ouattara’s forces in April 2011. The short conflict not only crippled the Ivorian economy, it saw flagrant human rights abuses on both sides. Like so many election-inspired conflicts in Africa, the Ivorian conflict was largely a tribal conflict whose roots had been laid in the results of the election. Ouattara has attempted a truth and reconciliation effort, but thus far such efforts have been quite partial and seemingly aimed mainly at destroying Gbagbo’s remaining base. Gbagbo himself was deported to the ICC to be judged on four accounts of crimes against humanity.

The Ivorian National Assembly, last elected in 2000, has about 249 members elected by FPTP in single or multi-member constituencies. You can find the only available map of these constituencies here, though sadly the CEI hasn’t released results allowing me to colour the map.

The elections were dealt a severe blow when Gbagbo’s party, the left-wing Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) decided to boycott the elections out of protest at the arrest of Gbagbo and several prominent FPI members. The government has seemingly cracked down, more or less, on the FPI and its media outlets. The legitimacy of these elections are pretty shaky, given that ultimately only 37% of voters turned out to vote in elections which were won in advance by the governing parties, made up mainly of Ouattara’s RDR and Henri Konan Bédié’s PDCI, the former ruling party.

Abidjan.net gives the following breakdown of seats:

RDR 123 seats
PDCI 76 seats
Independents 35 seats
UDPCI 7 seats
RHDP 4 seats
MFA 3 seats
UPCI 1 seat

The RDR, PDCI, UDPCI and RHDP are all part of the governing coalition. In general, the RDR, which is backed by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro’s former northern-based New Forces rebels, dominated the north of the country and Abidjan while the PDCI held its strongholds in the baoulé country around Yamoussoukro and performed well in the more pro-Gbagbo south. Independents usually dominated in the south. Guillaume Soro was elected in the northern constituency of Ferkessedougou-commune with 99% of the votes on 80% turnout. Turnout was only about 24% in Abidjan, and only 30% in the Ouattara stronghold of Abobo. The RDR dominated the vote in Abidjan with 59%, but the PDCI and independents split  the vote in the Lagunes region, which had voted for Gbagbo in 2010.

Some had thought that Ouattara was hoping on a strong PDCI result as an excuse to replace the more ambitious Soro by the old boss of the PDCI Henri Konan Bédié. Based on these results, with the RDR basically controlling an overall majority on its own, such a potential move will be rendered a bit tougher…

Besides a Christmas-day presidential runoff in Transnistria and a parliamentary election in Jamaica, this pretty much ends 2011 in terms of elections. I will wrap up the year, as always, with a Top 10 of this year’s most significant elections and a run through of what will be hot in 2012. You can help me decide which election was the most important election of the year by voting in the poll on the right-hand side of the page.

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Posted on December 18, 2011, in Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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