The Central African Republic’s “Ambitious Electoral Calendar”

When African countries suffer coups and/or civil wars, Western governments and local political elites often push for rapid elections, hoping to clarify the question of who’s in charge and to put the country on a path forward. Sometimes it works fairly well (Niger), and sometimes the results are less convincing (Libya, Mali). Looking just at those examples, I’m tempted to propose a very rough model: a coup without a civil war can set the stage for a relatively smooth electoral transition, but a messy combination of revolution and civil war is harder to repair with a vote.

That might be bad news for the Central African Republic (CAR). Last month, after CAR held the Bangui Forum on Reconciliation, I argued that “there is…a danger that domestic and international actors’ focus on swiftly holding presidential elections will distract from the more important task of promoting peace among CAR’s communities.” One purpose of the Forum was to prepare the ground for elections later this year – not necessarily a wise idea, in my view.

Now CAR’s National Elections Authority (l’Autorité nationale des élections, ANE) has laid out what RFI calls an “ambitious electoral calendar” (French)

that fixes the constitutional referendum for October 4, the first round of the legislative elections and the presidential elections simultaneously on October 18, and the second tour of the two votes on November 22. However, before that, the ANE will launch a major census of voters throughout the country, starting June 27 and lasting one month.

RFI spoke to a few politicians who voiced optimism about the timetable, saying that it can go forward if the ANE receives proper funding, and that the elections are unlikely to take place later than December 2015. The ANE’s site is here (French), though it is quite skeletal.

If Mali offers a lesson, it is that the problems of today will re-appear in a new (or old) guise after the elections, unless they are met with real solutions. For CAR, that means continuing to work to reconcile communities, disarm fighters, create jobs, resettle the displaced, and ensure people’s basic needs are met. The international funders who help pay for the elections should devote even greater resources toward those other priorities, otherwise the elections may well prove hollow.

Africa News Roundup: Ethiopia and Egypt, Chad and Libya, CAR’s Crisis, and More

Los Angeles Times:

A battle over water has turned into a war of colorful rhetoric between Ethiopia and Egypt over the flow of the Nile, which begins in the African highlands but keeps Egypt from being swallowed entirely by desert.

An ambitious Ethiopian dam project is diverting Nile waters that Cairo says will reduce the river’s northward flow. The Egyptians have stumbled into crisis mode: At a meeting hosted by President Mohamed Morsi this week, several politicians, unaware TV cameras were rolling, suggested sabotaging or threatening to bomb the dam.

IRIN: “[Central African Republic] Crisis Remains Dire – and Neglected.”

El Watan (French):

Gao, Kidal, Anefis… Six mois après le lancement de l’opération Serval, que deviennent les villes du Nord-Mali ? Notre envoyée spéciale a échappé à un attentat kamikaze et a vécu des accrochages entre l’armée malienne et le MNLA. Elle témoigne de la peur et de la précarité dans lesquelles vivent les populations.

BBC:

Seven people have died in the Somali port of Kismayo in fighting between two self-declared leaders of the strategic city and surrounding area.

Residents told the BBC the clashes began in the town centre at midday and lasted for about 40 minutes.

They broke out after one of the leaders tried to meet the defence minister who is attempting to resolve the crisis.

VOA: “South Sudan Switches from Arabic Textbooks to English.”

From May (missed it then), Luke Balleny: “What Impact Has the EITI Transparency Initiative Had on Nigeria?”

The Economist: “Could Political Demonstrations in Ethiopia Herald Greater Freedom?”

Wall Street Journal: “Chad’s President Warns of Islamist Threat in Libya.”

What else is happening?

Central African Republic: World Politics Review Article on the Post-Rebellion Transition

As on Monday, I’m outsourcing today’s post: I’m up at World Politics Review with a piece entitled “Security Vacuum Threatens Central African Republic’s Political Transition.” I consider some of the background to and implications of the recent rebel takeover in that country. If you read the piece, please let me know your reactions here in the comments.

Africa Blog Roundup: Algeria, Somalia, Michel Djotodia, South Sudan, and More

The Moor Next Door: “Comments on Algeria.”

Baobab has a video analysis of the London conference on Somalia.

Missed this during my hiatus in April, but it’s still relevant: Louisa Lombard‘s biography of Michel Djotodia, the rebel-turned-leader of the Central African Republic.

Amb. John Campbell: “What Next for Nigeria’s Oil Patch?”

Dibussi Tande: “President [Paul] Biya [of Cameroon] Appoints Thirty Senators.”

Roving Bandit: “So What Exactly Just Happened to the Economy of South Sudan?”

Via Amb. David Shinn, the Spring 2013 bulletin of the Sudan Studies Association (.pdf).

Roundup on the Rebel Conquest of Bangui, Central African Republic

On March 24, after months of rebellion and negotiations, the rebel coalition Seleka took control of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). For more background, see herehere, and especially here. This roundup attempts to capture key events and implications of the rebels’ capture of the capital:

  • VOA: “CAR Leader Flees; Rebel Chief Declares Self President.”
  • BBC: “CAR Rebel Head Michel Djotodia ‘Suspends Constitution’.”
  • Jeune Afrique (French) has a profile of Djotodia.
  • Al Jazeera: “CAR President [Francois Bozize] Seeks Refuge in Cameroon.”
  • Al Jazeera: “Looting and Gunfire in Captured CAR Capital.”
  • CSM: “Rebels Capture Central African Republic: Now Can They Govern It?”
  • Reuters: “Regional peacekeepers said that leader of the Seleka rebel coalition, self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia, appealed for their help in restoring order after his own men joined in a second day of looting on Monday in the riverside capital Bangui.”
  • France24 reports that Seleka promises to hold elections after a three-year transitional period.
  • LA Times: “African Union Suspends [CAR] After President Ousted.”
  • IRIN: “CAR Coup Comes Amid Deepening Humanitarian Crisis.”
  • Statements by UN Secretary General Ban Ki MoonUS State Department, UK Foreign Secretary, and French President Francois Hollande.

Africa Blog Roundup: CAR, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, and More

First, news from the Central African Republic:

Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled.

Witnesses reported gunfire as the Seleka rebel coalition took the presidential palace, followed by chaos and looting in the city centre.

Mr Bozize arrived with his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said.

The rebels, involved in an on-off rebellion since December, say Mr Bozize failed to honour a peace deal.

Gregory Mann: “It is looking ever more likely that France will claim to win its war while Mali fails to win its own.”

Bruce Whitehouse: “Mali’s Coup, One Year On.”

A podcast on Sudan-South Sudan agreements.

Sean Jacobs: “Chinua Achebe: The Writer Lives On.”

Amb. John Campbell comments on a recent BBC report from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Neha Paliwal: “Kenyan Government Yanks Condom Ad Featuring Unfaithful Woman.”

Roving Bandit: “Kigali to Oxford.”

Africa News Roundup: Malian Refugees, Seleka, Ethiopian Pastoralists, and More

Rest in Peace Chinua Achebe.

Reuters:

Fears of ethnic reprisals by government troops in Mali have driven thousands of Arabs and Tuaregs in the country’s north to abandon their homes and flee to Mauritania, undermining efforts to reunite their war-torn homeland.

At least 20,000 civilians have trekked westward across the dunes to the crowded Mbera refugee camp since mid-January when government forces reentered northern Mali on the coattails of a French ground and air campaign that swept Islamist rebels from the region.

The refugees joined 54,000 others who already fled to Mauritania when the rebels seized northern Mali in April 2012 and went on to impose a violent form of sharia law involving amputations and public whippings.

ICRC:

In northern Mali – where cholera is endemic – maintaining the drinking-water supply to the cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu is a major public-health issue. The lives of 115,000 people are at stake. This is no mean feat in an area that has been gripped by heavy fighting since the beginning of 2012.

IRIN: “Keeping Pastoralist Children in School in Ethiopia.”

RFI (French): “Centrafrique: inquiétude à Bangui à l’approche des rebelles de la Seleka.”

UN News Centre: “Central African Republic: Ban, Security Council Urge Parties to Immediately Halt Fighting.”

VOA: “Will There Be Enough Water for Everyone?”