Ben Shepherd

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Leaders of the G5 Sahel West African countries and their ally France confer over efforts to stem a jihadist offensive unfolding in the region. Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Chad’s ‘Après-Déby’ moment has been the subject of intense speculation and discrete scenario-planning for years by the country’s external partners and stakeholders as no-one seriously entertained the possibility he would ever step down peacefully.

But such prior reflection did not cushion the shock in N’Djaména and foreign capitals when the military announced his death on the battlefield – as his army confronted a rebel incursion from across Chad’s Libyan border – immediately dissolved the National Assembly, and declared 18 months of rule by a Transitional Military Council headed by Déby’s own son Mahamat.

With Déby gone, the future of Chad is in doubt, as well as its role as a military actor across a huge region of Central and Sahelian Africa, as a key partner for Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger in the struggle to contain Boko Haram, and as a strategic ally for France.…  Seguir leyendo »

Burundi's ministers sit for the extraordinary council of ministers at the state house in Bujumbura after the death of President Pierre Nkurunziza. Photo by TCHANDROU NITANGA/AFP via Getty Images.

The untimely death of former president Pierre Nkurunziza closes a major chapter in Burundi’s history stretching back to the end of the twelve-year civil war in 2005. Burundi’s overweening Tutsi-dominated military had proved unable to defeat an insurgency with deep roots in the marginalised, mostly Hutu rural population, and a long, painful stalemate had ended with ethnic quotas for the national assembly, senate and – vitally – the military enshrined in a new constitution. The post-war settlement was heralded - at the time - as a model for peaceful post-conflict power-sharing.

Nkurunziza, as leader of the largest faction of the principal rebel group, the CNDD, was able to win a comfortable victory in the 2005 elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Dakar after the Interior Ministry announced compulsory wearing of masks in public and private services, shops and transport, under penalty of sanctions. Photo by SEYLLOU/AFP via Getty Images.

African policymakers face a dilemma when it comes to COVID-19. The first hope is to prevent the virus from gaining a foothold at all, and many African states have significant experience of managing infectious disease outbreaks. The establishment of the Africa Centre for Disease Control highlights the hugely increased focus on public health in recent years.

But capacities to track, test and isolate vary wildly, notably between neighbours with porous and poorly controlled borders and, in most cases, sustained national-level disease control is difficult. Initial clusters of COVID-19 cases are already established in many places, but a lack of testing capacity makes it hard to know the full extent of transmission.…  Seguir leyendo »

Joseph Kabila arrives at a polling station on election day, 30 December. Photo: Getty Images.

The announcement of Felix Tshisekedi as the winner of the presidential election in the Democratic Republic of the Congo came as a shock. Many expected the outgoing administration of President Joseph Kabila to install its chosen candidate, Emmanuel Shadary; there is now the fear that Kabila will continue to rule from behind the scenes.

But Kabila was never the African ‘strongman’ of cliché, and Tshisekedi’s putative victory reveals much about a deep-rooted political system and its ability to adapt.

Tshisekedi’s triumph is one of political engineering rather than the ballot box. Accurate polling is extremely difficult in a country like the DRC, where there has been no census since the 1980s, but there is no reason to doubt pre-election polls that showed a different opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, in a commanding lead, nor the claims by the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) that data from their 40,000 observers does not match the results as announced.…  Seguir leyendo »

Moise Katumbi supporters disperse after police fired tear gas outside the courthouse in Lubumbashi on 13 May 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

Storm clouds are gathering over the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) once again. Elections due in 2016 are now almost certain not to happen. A political crisis is looming, and Congo’s already tattered post-war constitution will be put under even greater strain—particularly if President Joseph Kabila reaches the end of his final mandate, in December, without a replacement elected. A confusing series of political dialogues is ongoing, but no resolution seems imminent. The DRC’s elite is sleepwalking towards a cliff edge.

Violence is already spiking in the volatile eastern Congo, which is still awash with weapons and armed groups. An entrenched national leadership is indulging in heavy-handed harassment of political opponents, such as presidential aspirant Moise Katumbi, who has been arrested on charges of recruiting US mercenaries into his private security, which he denies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uganda’s election results are in, and Yoweri Museveni is the winner. Of course, the opposition has cried foul, alleging repression, vote rigging, a politically-biased electoral commission and wildly different levels of financing. Many of these complaints are likely well-founded, though it is very difficult to judge the extent to which they impacted the result. Observer missions have yet to release their assessments, but they are likely to repeat the verdict on previous elections; that there were irregularities, most glaringly over intimidation of the opposition and the misuse of state funds, but that the result broadly represents the will of the Ugandan people.…  Seguir leyendo »