Magazine article African Business

A Tough but Encouraging Year for Democracy: Not Everything Went Smoothly in Africa's 2017 Elections, but the Peaceful Transfer of Power in So Many Countries Is a Cause for Optimism

Magazine article African Business

A Tough but Encouraging Year for Democracy: Not Everything Went Smoothly in Africa's 2017 Elections, but the Peaceful Transfer of Power in So Many Countries Is a Cause for Optimism

Article excerpt

The news has not always been good in 2017, but on the whole Africa has demonstrated that democracy and the rule of law, however flawed, are taking root on the continent. A dozen countries went to the polls to elect their leaders in the last 12 months. A few stand out.

In January The Gambia saw the unexpected and dramatic ousting of longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh. Few had given his opponent Adama Barrow a chance in elections, but he emerged the winner. Having originally accepted the result, to everyone's surprise, Jammeh later tried to cling to power. He ultimately succumbed to regional pressure and went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

In February Somalia, a country beset by decades of conflict, elected Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to succeed incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The result was somewhat unexpected, and stands out for its peaceful transition.

August saw the key economies of Angola and Kenya go to the polls. In the former, Joao Lourenco succeeded Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who had ruled the country for 38 years, in what was widely seen as a formality. Lourenco had been handpicked by dos Santos, but is proving to be anything but a puppet.

Lourenco has targeted vested interests, most notably by dismissing Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the former president, as head of Angola's powerful national oil company Sonangol.

In Kenya a constitutional saga unfolded which saw the country go through seemingly endless legal wrangling after the country's supreme court annulled the result of its 8 August vote and ordered a rerun. The move by a judiciary against the executive was unprecedented in Africa, and despite months of tension incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta was eventually re-elected in a rerun on October 26. …

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