Saturday, February 29, 2020

Africa in Review 2019: Electoral Politics and Economic Development
Continental states are seeking a social equilibrium while the broader struggle for genuine independence remains imperative

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Sunday December 29, 2019

A recently-held national election in the North African state of Algeria was met by much controversy by the corporate and governmental controlled media outlets in the Western world.

Former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned from office on April 2, 2019 after declaring that he would not seek re-election.

Bouteflika had been the target of many large-scale demonstrations against the government in Algiers which is still dominated politically and militarily by the National Liberation Front (FLN), the independence movement turned ruling party. The FLN led the armed and mass insurrection from 1954-1962 resulting in the country becoming a sovereign entity having been colonized by France since 1830.

The anti-government protests over the last year in Algeria have focused on the existing government and military officials. The administration is accused of being corrupt and autocratic.

However, almost nothing in the way of what vision the demonstrators have for Algeria amid the current national and international relations of production and division of economic power has been articulated. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune ran for office as an independent although he has served in various capacities including prime minster in the past within the FLN government.

Tebboune has offered to open dialogue with the opposition groups leading the demonstrations every week in the streets of Algiers. These overtures have so far been rejected by the opposition which continues to say that the elections were illegitimate and rigged in favor of the status-quo.

Meanwhile in neighboring Tunisia, there was also an election held in October bringing to power President Kais Saied. A Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli has been appointed and given until mid-January to select ministers for a new government.

The Ennahda party, often characterized as a moderate Islamist formation, remained the most cohesive force within the parliament. However, no party won an outright majority in the legislative assembly raising questions about the capacity of Prime Minister-designate Habib Jemli, a former deputy agricultural minister and technocrat, to not only build a viable government notwithstanding the ability to represent Tunisia within the international community.

Relationships with the former colonial power of France are important. Many people on the international scene had placed faith in the uprisings of 2010-2011 which began in Tunisia, to usher in a renewed era of non-capitalist development and anti-imperialism.

The prospects for Tunisia were soon stifled along with neighboring Egypt, when a putative popular rebellion in Benghazi was exposed right away as a neo-colonial plot to seize the oil wealth and strategic geo-political territory. Since the 2011 Pentagon and NATO engineered counter-revolution in Libya, the country has been a base for instability and imperialist intrigue.

Today in Tripoli, a protracted military battle continues for dominance over the capital city. The Government of National Accord (GNA) established by the United Nations Security Council in late 2015, has never been able to gain legitimacy and control over the country as a whole. Longtime Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset and renegade military General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has failed since April 2019 to take control of the capital despite the unofficial and official support of France, the United States, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In recent weeks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared his military and political support for the GNA and its Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Erdogan traveled to neighboring Tunisia where he held a meeting with President Saied. Many speculated whether the Tunisian leader would join Erdogan in a military expedition to shore up the GNA in Tripoli and the western region of Libya.

Tunisia dismissed such speculation yet Turkey’s announced initiatives have caused concerns in both Washington and Moscow. Various media outlets accuse Russia of supplying mercenaries to assist Haftar’s LNA. President Vladimir Putin has denied the presence of Russian military service contractors in Libya although the Russian leader will be holding talks with Turkey over the Libya crisis. The posture of Turkey has added a different political dimension to the Libya crisis. LNA forces have released a Turkish ship which they had quarantined as an effort to intimidate Ankara.

Consequently, the existence of bourgeois democratic electoral politics in North Africa has not been adequate to guarantee national security and economic development. There are of course lessons to be learned from the events of the last nine years in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. Those who are perceptive can understand that removing governments absent of the organization and political astuteness of the working class, farmers and revolutionary youth cannot lead to the realization of a form of societal transformation which benefits the majority. 

Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania: Climate Change and the Utilization of Strategic Resources

During the month of September a Global Climate Strike was held mobilizing hundreds of millions across the world. East Africa has been the scene of catastrophic flooding, particularly in Kenya, where hundreds of thousands were displaced and thrown into economic uncertainty.

The concern over Climate Change including the documented warming of the planet and the escalation in disastrous weather events such as cyclones coincides with the discovery of untold strategic wealth in the form of petroleum and natural gas deposits throughout the East Africa region. Nonetheless, there are disagreements among states over the ownership and utilization of these resources.

Kenya and Somalia are embroiled in a maritime border dispute which impacts the potential exploitation of offshore oil resources in the Indian Ocean. Kenya accused Somalia of auctioning off oil deposits whose ownership is under dispute. The disagreement has led to diplomatic tensions and legal challenges before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Moreover, the western imperialist states have taken sides in the dispute between Somalia and Kenya, a disagreement over territorial waters which extend back to the era of British colonialism. Ironically enough, the claim to oil rich waters in the Indian Ocean prompted by colonial intrigue provides in the 21st century the continued divisions between African states and the extension of a neo-colonial foreign relations trajectory which has proven detrimental to the continent for the last six decades.

Such disputes requires interventions from the African Union (AU) and other regional organizations since these disagreements can only take human resources away from addressing the mounting environmental problems in East Africa. An alternative methodology to build unity is being exemplified in the East African railway projects which are being supported by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Linking Africans from Tanzania and Uganda to Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and beyond, the railway initiatives have the potential of providing the economic pathway to greater inter-state cooperation creating employment, infrastructural connectivity and greater independence from the legacy of imperialism. An article published in the Diplomat notes that: “China’s most significant railway projects in East Africa are the diesel-powered Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway built in Kenya, and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, which is the first electrified railway of its kind in Africa. Both railway projects, costing $3.4 billion for Ethiopia and $3.2 billion for Kenya, are standard gauge railway projects paid for by Chinese loans. The two-year-old light-rail system in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, was financed by China as well to the tune of $475 million.”

Cooperation between the Republic of Tanzania and the PRC in relationship to transport infrastructure extends back to the 1970s with the construction of the railway linking Zambia and Dar es Salaam. The re-capitalization of the project is underway providing the potential for further much-needed movement and trade within the region.

According to a report issued by Xinhua News Agency: “The governments of Tanzania and Zambia have resolved to finance the re-capitalization of the ailing Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA), a statement by TAZARA said on Monday (October 14). The statement said the decision to recapitalize the 1,860-km Chinese-built railway line running from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to New Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia was made on Saturday (October 12) by the 63rd meeting of TAZARA council of ministers in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam. The statement said the re-capitalization of TAZARA will begin after the TAZARA Board of Directors completed a bankable business plan by March 2020.” (

Therefore, cooperation between states paves the way forward in regard to economic independence and infrastructural improvements. China being a socialist state reinforces the notion of non-capitalist development as the long-term strategic platform for fostering unity and sustainable growth in the economic and technological sphere.

Pan-Africanism, Electoral Politics and Continental Development

The declaration of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) during 2018 represents a positive affirmation in achieving an integrated region seeking a path towards raising the living standards of workers, farmers and youth. Nonetheless, there are tremendous impediments to the realization of a unified Africa underpinned by a socialist economy.

A struggle against imperialist influence remains paramount. The rush to further aggravate inherited territorial maritime disputes portends much for the immediate future of AU member-states.

Moreover, an escalating presence of Pentagon, NATO and its allied military forces across Africa must be viewed from the perspective of achieving people-centered development and sovereignty. The insecurity in AU member-states must be settled by the governments involved otherwise the much-needed political stability and economic modernization will remain elusive for future generations to ponder and acquire.    

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