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A Look Back At The Political Events That Shaped Africa In The First Half Of 2013

posted 31 Dec 2013, 06:17 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 Dec 2013, 06:18 ]

A look back at the political events that shaped Africa in the first half of 2013, as Madagascar and Kenya elected new leaders in closely watched polls, while Senegal had to deal with one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country.

 ANTANANARIVOMADAGASCAR (REUTERS) -  2013 saw a busy political landscape for many African countries, with several general elections across the African continent, including Madagascar, Kenya as well as landmark corruptin cases inSenegal, that gave rise to new hopes for transparency.

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In Madagascar, an anouncement by outgoing president Andry Rajoelina, tha he would not run in May elections, bowing to international pressure to give the island nation a fresh start after the coup that brought him to power in 2009, raising hope of an end to the political crisis that began in 2009.

"I prefer to sacrifice myself, than to sacrifice the lives of more than 20 million Malagasy," said Rajoelina, in a televised speech.

The impoverished country has been in crisis since then-opposition leader Rajoelina ousted Marc Ravalomanana in an uprising that scared off investors and devastated the vital tourism industry.

Regional powers had pressed Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, to stand aside to prevent any repeat of the turmoil during this year's presidential vote.

Ousted leader Ravalomanana, a wealthy businessman, had already agreed not to stand again, saying in December of the previous year that he wanted the country to rebuild itself.

The announcement gained some support from some residents on the streets of the capitalAntananarivo, as others tried to make out what influenced the decision.

"Maybe due to the pressure from the international community, or the Troika and SADC, or here maybe have other people who may have forced him to make that decision," said one resident, Noel Razafimbololona.

But a few months later, Rajoelina went back on his decision and announced that he would be running for president, after former president Didier Ratsiraka and Lalao Ravalomanana, the wife of the ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana also announced that she would be running for president.

The inclusion of the three candidates surprised many, especially due to the fact that Rajoelina andRavolamanana's wife were previously not allowed to stand, a decision that set back elections and hopes to end the long running politcal crisis on the island.

In September , aN electoral court order barring Rajoelina form running for president, as well as the wife of the man he ousted, finally paved the way for elections to take place in late October, with a second run-off taking place last week, with recults expected in coming days.

Many Malagasy, however, fear the result will be disputed, bringing further turmoil and keeping investors at bay. That would deprive the country for even longer of much-needed foreign currency.

The turmoil has seen foreign direct investment into Madagascar slump to a projected $0.46 billion this year from $1.36 billion in 2009, when the mining sector accounted for most inflows, World Bank data shows.

In Kenya, the year began with a decision by lawmakers to award themselves a hefty retirement package that includes bodyguards and a state funeral led to massive protests in the coutnry's capital Nairobi.

Protesters held mock funerals for lawmakers who attempted to triple their end of term bonuses yet again.

Members of parliament passed two bills awarding themselves hefty bonuses amounting to 9.3 millionKenya shillings (105,454 US dollars) and sweetened the deal with extra perks like diplomatic passports and security for life as well as state funerals when they die.

At the time, former President Mwai Kibaki declined to assent to the Retirement Benefits bill, but gave consent to his own 25 million shilling (283,479 US dollars) retirement package which includes a 12.6 million shilling (142,874 US dollars) one-off payment.

Dozens of civil society members and ordinary Kenyans carried empty black coffins through the central business district in a procession that ended outside parliament buildings.

Boniface Mwangi, an activist who spearheaded a graffiti campaign that depicts lawmakers as vultures and calls for a ballot revolution, said the coffins symbolize the death of impunity and greed as east Africa's largest economy heads for general elections on March 4.

"Today we are going to bury them and we are telling people that you can use your vote to tell these people good-bye so it's symbolism actually that we want to get rid of the bad past and the bad leadership that's why we have the black coffins," he said. "Kibaki is a rich guy he has been in parliament for 49 years and so he dint deserve to do that but its too little too late but hopefully the next government which is going to come will overturn that but that's another thing its highly unlikely," Mwangi added.

In April, Kenyans turned their attentions to a closely disputed elections, that saw kenyan photographerBoniface Mwangi reaching millions of Kenyans with his message of a "ballot revolution".

The 29-year-old Kenyan photographer was so angered by the events that followed a disputed election result in 2007, that he decided never to let impunity and injustice go unchallenged.

"I started from a point of anger. I was very pissed after the violence because of what we did to each other and how the politicians just moved on like nothing happened. That bothered me so much I thought, you know what am going to use my work to provoke Kenyans to talk, to think about it and hopefully vote wisely," Mwangi said.

Violence carried out by ethnically charged youth killed more than 1000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands after the polls.

Using an initiative dubbed Picha Mtaani, a Swahili term meaning "Pictures in the Streets", Mwangi led a mission to create discussion around the events of the post poll violence and challenge the people involved to look back, reflect and commit to reconciliation.

The travelling exhibition of explicit photographs sparked emotion and even anger from some authorities, but Mwangi says it is only the beginning of a long-term initiative to address deep-seated tensions that have simmered since independence in a country where political support tends to follow ethnic lines rather than ideology, and differences flare around elections

With fears that 2008 post elections violence would replay itself, landlocked neighbours were worried by possible Kenyan election violence.

In neighbouring Uganda, traders were stocking up on fuel and food to prevent the kind of disruption they suffered after being cut off from the port of Mombasa by angry rioters following disputed elections five years ago.

"We have a problem of Kenya elections but the good thing we have got enough stock which can last more than two months so we are not so scared about that if there is any chaos in Nairobi or our border, I think we can survive for more than two months," said Hajji Shaban, a trader in Kampala.

About 200 million people in UgandaRwandaBurundiSouth Sudan and eastern Congo could be affected if Kenya had gone through a fresh bout of fighting when it holds presidential and parliamentary elections on March 4.

The port of Mombasa serves its wide hinterland with a miriad of imports. Some 95 percent of all the cargo coming in through the port is trucked by road.

Truck drivers at a weigh bridge in the small town of Athi River on the fringes of the capital Nairobi said there were already fears of violence.

After the December 2007 election, machete-wielding youths blocked roads and looted trucks they had hijacked. They burnt tyres to cut the road from the port and uprooted railway lines, strangling trade toUgandaRwanda and Burundi for weeks.

The Mombasa port handled 22 million tonnes of cargo last year, up from 20 million tonnes in 2011, with about two-thirds of the total traffic of cargo destined to its neighbours, meaning they almost totally depend on its smooth operation.

In Senegal, former president Abdoulaye Wade's son arrest raised hopes of new wave of transparency

The arrest of the former president's son on corruption charges in Senegal was seen as a sign that the age of impunity in public life was over, and that the country is committed to fighting corruption, said the Justice Minister Aminata Toure at the time.

Karim Wade, the most powerful figure in his father Abdoulaye Wade's 2000-2012 government, was arrested on suspicion of amassing up to $1.4 billion in assets via a network of shady holding companies.

Hundreds of Wade's supporters marched in central Dakar to protest his detention.

"This Karim Wade matter (his arrest) is hurting everyone. He (Karim) didn't do anything, he didn't say anything, but he was arrested, whilst his father built this country. They (the new regime) are there, but they didn't lower the price of rice, or cooking oil, people are hungry and tired, there's no work, we want them to leave us alone. We didn't elect them so they can arrest people, but to lower the cost of staple foods, electricity, water. Nobody's as good as Abdoulaye Wade. Free Karim Wade!" said Nabou Sembene, a Dakar resident.

Prosecutors were investigating graft allegations against at least four other former ministers. Karim Wadedominated his father's government, simultaneously occupying four key ministries with a total budget equivalent to one-third of state expenditure.

He was accused him of taking stakes in large sectors of the economy via a web of offshore companies, notably firms involved in managing Dakar port and providing airport services. The opposition and his supporters allege that the inquiry was little more than a political witch-hunt.

Analysts said President Macky Sall was making good on promises to tackle widespread corruption in the poor West African country after he won power a year ago. The aim is to change the culture of public life and prevent bribe-taking throughout the administration. Senegal, a former French colony, is the only country in West Africa not to have suffered a military coup since independence, but its political stability was tested by Wade's efforts to win a third term in 2012. .