Disputed results and demos mar poll diary

Sunday September 10 2017

Opposition supporters sit on the road as they keep an all-night vigil to press for constitutional reform, during anti-government protests led by a coalition of opposition parties in Lome, on September 7, 2017.  Huge crowds turned out in Togo's capital to demand political reform, in the largest opposition protests against President Faure Gnassingbe's regime. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

Opposition supporters sit on the road as they keep an all-night vigil to press for constitutional reform, during anti-government protests led by a coalition of opposition parties in Lome, on September 7, 2017. Huge crowds turned out in Togo's capital to demand political reform, in the largest opposition protests against President Faure Gnassingbe's regime. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP 

By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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A mid rule of law advances exemplified by recent developments in Kenya, tension is palpable as political temperatures are ratcheted up in several other African countries.

Most of the tension is the direct result of contested election results, and has led to mounting anti-regime demonstrations in countries like Togo.

The protests have been fed by public discontent long after President Faure Gnassingbé took over the reins of power in 2005.

In a continent fraught with the political dynasty phenomenon, the ruler’s rise to the presidency after reportedly inheriting it from his father has been a bone of contention in the West African country for years.

Gnassingbé  Eyadema ruled the tiny nation from 1967, and it was after his death that the son took over the reins of power.

CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

Since then, opposition leaders have been calling for constitutional reforms, including the introduction of a two-round voting system and limitation of presidential mandates to two five-year terms.

The latter demand by the opposition is meant to nip the Gnassingbé dynasty in the bud and establish a new political order in Togo.

In next-door Côte d’Ivoire, the military has been restive in recent years amid a flurry of  disturbing attacks on police stations.

The raids have been blamed on supporters of  former leader Laurent Gbagbo, who is facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In the meantime, there have been reports of politically instigated intimidation and actual or attempted assassinations in countries like Kenya, Lesotho and Tanzania.

While a top Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission official was murdered in Kenya just days before the August 8 General Election, there was another remarkable assassination in Lesotho.

The country’s army commander was shot dead on September 5 in what was reported to be a shootout between rival officers.

POLITICAL ASSASSINATION

The episode, widely viewed as a political assassination, could revive instability in the perennially volatile tiny African mountainous kingdom, observers fear. 

Already a hallmark of instability, the country has gone through a series of elections in recent years, including the snap poll in April following a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

In Tanzania, top opposition leader Tundu Lissu was shot and seriously wounded inside his car near his home in the central city of Dodoma.

Lissu, a member of Chama Cha Maendeleo na Demokrasia party, is the opposition chief whip in parliament and a relentless critic of the government of President John Pombe Magufuli.

He has been arrested about nine times, with authorities accusing him of making unsavoury remarks against the president and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

Days earlier in neighbouring Rwanda, Diane Rwigara, 35, a critic of the government was arrested together with members of her family.

PAUL KAGAME

She had expressed interest in the country’s presidency before the August 4 election, which Paul Kagame won with a landslide, but her bid was foiled when she was disqualified.

Since then, Rwigara has been feeling the heat.

According to media reports she was being investigated for forging signatures during her presidential campaigns.

In a continent where being in the opposition has proved to be perilous, Rwigara’s woes remind one of what Zambian politician Hakainde Hichilema has been going through since losing narrowly to Edgar Lungu in the presidential election in August last year.

Hichilema, the leader of the United Party for National Development, has had it rough.

IMPRISONMENT

Having spent four months in custody for reportedly failing to give way to President Lungu’s motorcade in capital Lusaka, Hichilema was freed just over two weeks ago.

Unrepentant, the opposition leader condemned his four-month imprisonment on August 31, terming it an abuse of the criminal justice system by his opponents.

All around Africa, tension has been on the rise as post-election issues continue to trigger dramatic reactions among newly energised champions of political change.

SUPREME COURT

As matters stand, the long-awaited Liberian election will be held on October 10, ahead of the repeat one in Kenya, now slated for October 17 as a result of a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

In the meantime, Angola is preparing for the swearing in of President-elect João Lourenço, the former defence minister who was the flagbearer of the ruling MPLA.

Gratefully, unlike elsewhere in Africa, the incoming leader has called for dialogue with the opposition parties.