The October election season: Guinea, Tanzania and Cote D’Ivoire head to the polls

Guinea

‘Papa Promise’ fails to deliver

If Guinea’s elderly, infirm president Alpha Condé is re-elected on Sunday, will he be yet another of the country’s presidents to die in office?

Sidy Yansané


NEWS ANALYSIS

Perhaps the most striking image from Guinea’s electoral campaign was when President Alpha Condé was interviewed by news channel France 24 at his palace in Sékoutoureya in the capital, Conakry. The head of state turns 83 next March, and on camera he appeared greatly diminished, both physically and intellectually.

He struggled to keep his eyes open, and was unable to suppress a persistent grimace. During the interview, the president found it difficult to express himself, especially concerning recent events. He was most comfortable dwelling on the past, raising his voice and cutting off the two interviewers to lecture them in the pedagogical tone for which he is famous, and for which he is nicknamed “The Professor” (he began his career teaching law at the Sorbonne in Paris).

Fifteen minutes into the interview, the thought occurred: if Condé is re-elected on Sunday, will he be yet another Guinean president who dies in office?


Despite his advanced age, and despite having already served two terms in office, Condé was seemingly unable to find a successor in his party, the Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée. To allow himself to run again, he altered the country’s constitution to remove the provision on term limits. This sparked fierce protests from both opposition parties and civil society organisations, which spilled over into massive demonstrations in which hundreds of thousands of citizens took to the streets, all shouting “Amoulanfé” (“This will not pass” in Sousou, one of the four main local languages).

The brutal response from state security forces killed dozens.

Condé’s record during his decade in power is mixed. He strengthened some aspects of the country’s democracy, including freeing media and releasing political prisoners. And thanks to his economic policies, Guinea is now the third-largest producer of bauxite in the world.

But he has also failed to deliver on his many promises (so many that some young people refer to him, ironically, as “Papa Promise”), especially when it comes to service delivery and economic development. In a recent evaluation report, the Association of Bloggers of Guinea found that the president had fulfilled just 13% of the pledges he had made. “On education, town planning and industry, the failures are significant,” said the association’s president Alfa Diallo. At the mass demonstrations, popular discontent focused mainly on the continuing struggles to access electricity and the dire lack of roads.

During the campaign, the president’s team glossed over these failures. “The government’s electoral campaign lingered less on its mixed record and was content to scold opponents,” said Kabinet Fofana, the director of the Guinean Association of Political Science. Fofana said that Condé’s desire to remain in office was driven by powerful business interests, which could lose out under a different administration. 

In other words, Condé does not necessarily have strong popular support, although in the absence of reliable opinion polls this is difficult to measure.

Against this backdrop, tensions are running high. “With the complete lack of trust between political figures, I fear renewed violence after Sunday’s vote,” said Fofana. 

These concerns were echoed last week by Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, in an official statement. “As in previous elections, where similar episodes of violence broke out, I call for calm and restraint from all political actors and their supporters,” she said.

These are dangerous days for Guinea, but the country has been here before — as Condé well knows. He was a political exile under the “revolutionary dictatorship” of Ahmed Sékou Touré, the first strongman of an independent Guinea. He was also a political prisoner under the decades-long military regime of General Lansana Conté. 

Yet he appears to be following the same authoritarian path forged by his predecessors. His frail television interview even recalled Conté’s last years, when the general was so infirm that during the 2003 presidential vote he did not have the strength to leave his vehicle, and the ballot box had to be brought to him. 

Conté died in office in 2008. Sékou Touré died in office in 1984. Is Guinea doomed to repeat history once again?

“There is a form of continuity in governance,” observed the philosopher Amadou Sadjo Barry, a professor at the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe, a college in Quebec, Canada. “Behind democratic formalism, authoritarian practices persist. Since the death of Sékou Touré, politics has no longer been linked to the organisation of society and individual progress.”

This trend persists despite Guinea’s significant mineral wealth, which contrasts so sharply with the country’s extreme and widespread poverty. “We are in decline because this authoritarianism has failed to bring economic development and meet people’s aspirations,” said Barry. 

So far, the Guinean people have been offered little hope that the elections on Sunday will arrest that decline.


Côte d’Ivoire

Ouattara seeks third term under 2016 constitution

Leanne de Bassompierre in Abdijan


Two weeks away from Cote d’Ivoire’s presidential elections, campaigning is officially underway, with incumbent Alassane Ouattara, who is seeking a controversial third term, kicking off his campaign with a rally in the central city of Bouaké on Friday. 

Opposition parties have called for the election to be postponed over what they deem Ouattara’s unconstitutional bid for a third term, but stopped short of saying they will boycott the poll. The ruling party maintains a new constitution adopted in 2016 reset the clock on term limits, and that the election will take place regardless of whether the opposition participates. 

“I look forward to seeing you on the evening of 31 October 2020, to celebrate the RHDP’s victory,” Ouattara told a meeting of his party’s strategic committee on Wednesday, according to a copy of his speech.

The 78-year-old former Interna­tional Monetary Fund executive is dead set on a first-round victory, in which he will need to convince more than 50% of the country’s nearly 7.5-million registered voters to support him.

While the official campaign period runs from 15 to 29 October, Ouattara has been on the road for weeks, personally announcing a 21% increase in the price paid to cocoa farmers at the start of the main harvest on 1 October in the capital Yamoussoukro and inaugurating several infrastructure projects, the cornerstone of his presidency. 

Locals joke he’d even attend a random baptism if invited.

Yet in a country where the median age is 18.9 years, both the incumbent and his octogenarian main rival, Henri Konan Bedié, 86, will have to win over a growing youth population. 

“Over the next two weeks, your efforts should focus on proximity through door-to-door operations, detailing our results (until now) and ambitions for the next five years in simple and accessible words to our compatriots,” Ouattara said.

Ouattara’s camp has emphasised his physical fitness. This is a relevant concern: after all, the sudden death of his chosen successor Amadou Gon Coulibaly this July is what led Ouattara to announce his candidacy a month later.

(John McCann/M&G)

Tanzania

Opposition could stop Mafuguli’s re-election

Simon Mkina in Dar es Salaam


Tanzania’s election is scheduled for 28 October, and although there are 16 parties in contention only two have any real chance of victory.

Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), the ruling party since independence in 1961, has never lost an election. It is led by incumbent president John Magufuli, who is running for a second term in office. Hoping to upset its dominance is Chadema, the main opposition party, which is fielding charismatic parliamentarian Tundu Lissu as its presidential candidate.

The ruling party’s campaign has been very loud and very visible. President Magufuli’s face and the party’s signature green and yellow colours can be found on posters, leaflets and billboards across the country, and coverage of his campaign dominates television broadcasts, radio airtime and newspapers. 

It helps, of course, that the media space is tightly controlled by the government and its allies. Influential artists and actors, including Diamond Platinumz, Ali Kiba and Harmonize have endorsed his bid for re-election.

You have to look hard to find any sign of Chadema’s trademark blue and white colours, either on the streets or on the airwaves. 

The opposition party has complained that new taxes have made it significantly more expensive to produce electoral materials, and that the media landscape is biased against it. Despite these challenges, Lissu can pull a crowd: Chadema rallies are just as full as those for the ruling party. 

And on social media, where — despite its best efforts — the government has less control, it is clear that the opposition enjoys significant popular support.

Working in Chadema’s favour is an informal deal it has struck with the third-biggest party in the country, ACT-Wazalendo, led by Zitto Kabwe. ACT-Wazalendo is asking its supporters to vote for Lissu; in exchange, Chadema has endorsed ACT-Wazalendo’s candidate to lead in Zanzibar (the island is a semi-autonomous region with the Tanzanian federation).

The question now is whether this united opposition front will be enough to unseat a sitting president who is expertly exploiting all the advantages of incumbency.

Subscribe to the M&G for R2 a month

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

And for this weekend only, you can become a subscriber by paying just R2 a month for your first three months.

Sidy Yansané
Sidy Yansané is a Guinean journalist and commentator

Related stories

Malawi elections provide a global lesson in democracy

COMMENT: Opposition candidates and party can increase their chances of success at the polls by putting aside minor differences and presenting a united front

The Trump era is over. But the fight for democracy is just getting started

A respected and robust United States — with all of our flaws, mistakes and missteps — can be good for the defence of democracy, not least in Africa

A litmus test for the 2021 election

In this week’s 96 by-elections, the trend was the ANC held its ground and grew, while the DA lost big, with minority parties eating into its voter base

Maintaining Museveni’s securitised state

As Ugandans prepare to go to the polls in January 2021, the involvement of security forces in the electoral process is a given and political reform seems a long way off

Editorial: Cyril must embrace his AU role

There are several African conflicts that require urgent attention

The European companies that armed the Ivorian civil war

AN OCCRP investigation reveals that Gunvor and Semlex brokered weapons-for-oil deals in early 2011 when Côte d’Ivoire was in crisis, despite a UN arms embargo
Advertising

Subscribers only

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

Q&A Sessions: ‘I think I was born way before my...

The chief executive of the Estate Agency Affairs Board and the deputy chair of the SABC board, shares her take on retrenchments at the public broadcaster and reveals why she hates horror movies

More top stories

Zuma maintains his true colours at Zondo commission

The former president’s escapades at the commission of inquiry into state capture are a far cry from Nelson Mandela’s response when summonsed to testify in the high court

Gordhan tells Zondo how Moyane wanted to advance the objectives...

The public enterprises minister is being cross-examined by Tom Moyane’s lawyers at the state capture inquiry, as both men seek to defend their reputations

Burundian refugees in Tanzania face increasing danger

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of Burundian refugees being tortured and forcibly returned by Tanzanian authorities

Exclusive: Top-secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes

Explosive witness testimony from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda implicates Paul Kagame and the RPF in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 genocide.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…