The year 2006 may not be the 'year of Africa', as 2005 supposedly was, but many of the trends exhibited over the past 12 months will continue in force. Trade issues will remain at the heart of international debate, fuelled partly by booming commodity prospects that will also inform domestic political developments. After an unusual year in which the world's most violent continent recorded no new wars, new instability can be expected, stoked partly by the lamentable and ongoing authoritarianism of nominally democratic governments.
In 2005, Africa was the intended beneficiary of most of the aid and debt perks promised by U.K. prime minister Tony Blair's agenda at the Gleneagles (Scotland) G8 meeting, but while donors deliberate on how best to direct that aid to governments that often seem less than perfectly suited to the role of poverty-reduction development partners, much bigger developments are afoot in the realm of trade. Global economic forecasts see commodity prices of all kinds continuing to rise in the long term, despite a small short-term correction. This will mean even more attention fixed on world trade issues, with African initiatives led by vocal, agricultural commodity-producing nations like Burkina Faso and Kenya; and as long as key developed nations remain reluctant to abolish subsidies to their own uncompetitive farm sectors, that emphasis is unlikely to go away. However, sustained higher global commodity prices will also see a continuation of big investment projects in sectors such as hydrocarbons and minerals, and in the infrastructure needed to exploit them. It will also see international capital increasingly attracted to 'frontier' provinces that have not historically been the site of intensive commodity production.
Within Africa, continued high fuel prices in particular will have clear political implications. In fuel-importing nations like Burkina Faso, Mali and Malawi, they will contribute towards cost-of-living problems and therefore political instability. Hydrocarbon exporters, on the other hand, will find themselves flush with cash. States such as Nigeria will spend some of this internationally, funding continental initiatives designed to further their existing positions as regional hegemonies, but their position will be challenged by a resurgent Angola, while new sub-regional players such as Equatorial Guinea disrupt the established balance of power. On a global level, governments in Europe and the United States will have to modify their relations with the continent to avoid being displaced by new entrants on the African scene, such as China, Brazil and (a long way behind the others) India, which are all keen to court African nations possessing sought-after commodities.
In domestic politics, many African nations will be faced with the possibility of a sharp turn to the illiberal. The 1990s saw a huge wave of democratisations on the continent, which is continuing in some places, but other states have seen the new governments brought in by people power increasingly come to resemble the old regimes. A number of elections across the continent will be acid tests of just how comfortable such elites have become, or alternatively just how well the young democratic institutions can stand up to their manipulations. The question is less open across a cluster of nations where erstwhile national liberation movements are having trouble letting go. From Asmara in the north to Harare in the south, former guerrillas are digging in behind their desks and preparing to resist popular pressure to oust them. Their intransigence could bring a whole swathe of states in eastern and southern Africa to the brink of conflict, just as others in the west and central regions of the continent begin to limp up the long road of post-war recovery.
West Africa's efforts towards regional integration will continue on a stop-start trajectory, hobbled by the divergent ambitions of individual leaders and by dilapidated infrastructure much in need of investment. This is amply highlighted by the cholera epidemics that have become a frequent feature of West Africa's cities each rainy season - in 2006 they can be expected to return with even greater impact, as clean water and waste-disposal systems remain woefully inadequate for some of the world's fastest-growing metropoles. One thing that West Africa is unlikely to have to worry about in 2006 is a repeat of the previous year's food shortages. Predictions of a largely adequate harvest across the Sahel belt in the coming year mean an end to food-price inflation and famine worries, with the possible exception of pockets of Niger, where nomad communities and their herds are yet to recover from last year's hammering.
The next 12 months will also see major developments in the western Atlantic seaboard, an area that is normally marginal to the region's major developments. The whole Sahel coast will see a series of elections that cover the full spectrum of the region's political tendencies. In the north, Mauritania's transitional junta is set to continue apace with conservative, but genuine, democratic reforms that should make a big difference to a country previously brought to the edge of the abyss by abusive, centralised authoritarianism. Mauritanians will vote on a new constitution first on 24 June 2006, then municipal and lower-house legislative elections will be held together on 19 November 2006, with the process capped by presidential polls in the following year, meaning that every stage of the transition will have mass input. At the southern end of the coast, Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh - a coup leader who has unconvincingly civilianised himself - is staring defeat in the face at presidential polls due in the first half of 2006. Hugely unpopular due to his uniquely old-fashioned combination of brutality and incompetence, Jammeh has recently begun rounding up not only opposition leaders, but also any members of his own regime whose loyalty he doubts, using ill-defined 'national security' and terrorism charges. This is unlikely to make him more popular, so he may try and delay, derail or otherwise subvert the elections, but it may be that someone from his own camp removes him before he even gets that far.
Sandwiched in between the two countries, regional poster-child Senegal exhibits aspects of both dynamics as it gears up for parliamentary polls scheduled for early 2006. They will be a test of popularity for President Abdoulaye Wade and his Senegalese Democratic Party (PDS). Wade pilots a comparatively successful, liberalised economy and a democratic state that enjoys good standing with both international partners and African peers alike. He therefore may be expected to ride a wave of popular support like that which enabled him to displace the long-time incumbent Socialists in 2000. However, his authoritarian tendencies have lost him friends even within his own party, to the extent that he only warded off a leadership challenge by former prime minister Idrissa Seck by detaining him on corruption and security charges, and purging the party of his rival's supporters. The whole experience runs very much counter to Senegal's tolerant tradition, and it remains to be seen whether Wade's antics pose a serious threat to the country's democratic instructions.
Some 400 km off the Senegalese coast, the electoral process in Cape Verde should run rather more smoothly, with the incumbent African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) confident of a second straight victory in legislative and presidential polls scheduled for January and February 2006 respectively. Cape Verde's sister state, Guinea Bissau, on the other hand, will continue to be mired in instability relating to the re-election in late 2005 of former president João Bernardo Vieira 'Nino'. The immediate heat has been taken out of the dispute over Nino's dismissal of former prime minister Carlos Gomes Júnior in late October 2005, but the president's relations with the country's largest party, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), will remain strained. To make the government work, Nino will be forced to rule by virtual diktat - although burgeoning authoritarianism will put the inchoate coalition supporting his presidency under considerable strain. As ever, reform of the armed forces will be identified as a key priority, although this most political of projects will require more than donor money and assistance to be accomplished without stoking discontent amongst the rank and file. Further to the south, questions will continue to swirl around the future of Nino's long-time ally, Guinean president Lansana Conté. With so many previous predictions of Conté's imminent death or deposition proving precipitous, Guinea watchers have turned their attentions to his key officers, whose manoeuvring for position is only likely to intensify in 2006. Having avoided a trap set by Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo in the closing months of 2005, Justice Minister Mamadou Sylla - the leading businessman of the land and Conté's closest confidant in government - can be expected to launch a counter-attack. Conté is less protective of Diallo than Sylla, but with good relations with the European Union (EU) dependent on the success of Diallo's reform programme, a decisive move against the regime's technocrats seems unlikely.
Located on the northern fringes of the Mano River region, Guinea will be the principal source of uncertainty in the troubled sub-region, but trajectories in the sub-region's post-conflict states should be somewhat more straightforward. Peace in Sierra Leone will continue to consolidate on the back of strong economic growth, although political tensions can be expected to rise in anticipation of the 2007 presidential and legislative elections. The ruling Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP) looks somewhat fragmented after a dispute over the presidential nomination, with the revived opposition All People's Congress (APC) looking to capitalise. The regime's authoritarian tendencies (underwritten by claims about the APC's disastrous record in power during the 1970s and 1980s) will become increasingly prominent and political freedoms are likely to suffer.
After two years of transitional administration, Liberia will gain an elected government on 16 January 2006, with the inauguration of president-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Although the period since her unexpected election victory in November 2005 has been mired in controversy owing to the agitation of defeated candidate George Manneh Weah and his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), this should have dissipated by the time of her inauguration. A number of issues face the new president, including the implementation of an ambitious anti-corruption scheme backed by the UN, reform of the judiciary, possible revision of the constitution, and the renegotiation of the asylum status of Johnson-Sirleaf's predecessor, Charles Taylor, who continues to enjoy the protection of Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. Although the new president will seek to establish her credentials and will boast a degree of cover from Liberia's international partners, only partial progress will be made on these issues in 2006.
Faced with a deadline of 31 October 2006, Côte d'Ivoire must make decisive moves towards elections in the first half of the year. However, prospects for success are mixed: boasting a new and fully empowered prime minister, Charles Konan Banny, the power-sharing government can be revived and serve as a basis for pushing through key aspects of the various peace agreements in force. However, it is unclear whether the New Forces rebel group will be willing to disarm, or whether the threat of UN sanctions will be sufficient to coerce it to do so. A return to conditions of full conflict remains the most distant probability, although further delays in the electoral process cannot be ruled out, with a concomitant and deleterious impact on political relations.
Benin and Nigeria will both be gripped by election fever. In the former, the final stages of the race to succeed long-time incumbent Mathieu Kérékou in March 2006 will have something of a carnival atmosphere, as numerous small parties and their free-spending leaders race to identify and then line up behind the candidate most likely to win. In Nigeria, the stakes are more serious, as ructions centred on the primaries within the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) spark violence and threaten to destabilise certain regions. Perennially among the most vulnerable is the oil-producing Niger Delta, whose festering problems are now the focus of increased international attention, but the Yoruba south-west region is also likely to see hiked political tension throughout the year. Rows between President Obasanjo and his deputy will at some points seem to threaten the entire project of the post-1999 return to democracy, with rumours of third-term ambitions on Obasanjo's part now taken seriously by many commentators. Yet, despite the intense competition, some form of elite consensus still lingers in the country and new solutions are likely to emerge. Moreover, while Nigeria's elite is absorbed with - and the populace buffeted by - such intrigues, the commissioning of a number of big energy projects - notably expansions to the huge liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Bonny Island, supplying European, U.S. and Mexican markets, and the West African Gas Pipeline to Benin, Togo and Ghana - will give the country a bigger strategic role in both the West African and Atlantic economies. That means in 2006 more potential influence on a global scale, although maximising that effectively - let alone addressing the serious contradictions in their own country's political blueprint - will remain a big challenge for the country's squabbling elites.
In several of the former French colonies of Central Africa, incumbent heads of state will face a variety of challenges to their supremacy in 2006, some more threatening than others. The most vulnerable is Chad's President Idriss Déby, whose regime appears to be in terminal collapse after a wave of desertions from the armed forces, the emergence of a number of new politico-military groups in the east of the country, and the defection of high-profile members of the administration. Déby has weathered such storms in the past, but never before has he faced such opposition from within his ethnic Zaghawa-dominated regime. Facing apparently intractable demands for his resignation, a military victory over the dissident forces seems the only escape route for the embattled president: 'reconciliation' will only be possible if the head of state can muster a definitive show of strength. Even then, the sustainability of his regime is decidedly questionable; its weakness exacerbated by his own poor health and fading international support for his presidency. Déby's greatest asset is international fear about what would happen in the aftermath of his overthrow. However, his government's attempt to modify World Bank-backed petroleum revenue-management legislation has raised new questions about his suitability for the role of custodian of the Chadian state, and his handling of the rebellion in the east will be a focus of considerable international scrutiny. Developments in the Central African Republic will be less closely watched, despite the country's imbrications with Chadian political affairs. If Déby falls, C.A.R. president François Bozizé will lose his closest sub-regional ally and may even turn nursemaid to his patron if the Chadian head of state seeks sanctuary there. Losing a friend to the north could have serious implications for Bozizé's own problems in north-western C.A.R., where nebulous armed groups - possibly acting at the behest of his ousted predecessor, Ange-Félix Patassé - have been causing major security headaches for much of the past year. Although concerned about related instability along its own north-eastern frontier, Cameroon should remain an island of stability and calm, with President Paul Biya's reform-minded cabinet taking much of the sting from the challenge of ruling party modernisers, who are unlikely to mount a new challenge to the party's old guard ahead of legislative elections in 2007.
If not in Cameroon, regime reform will be near the top of the agenda in Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon. In the former, President Denis Sassou Nguesso may revive his attempt to reorganise the ruling Congolese Labour Party (PCT) and the national army - a project that was postponed in 2005 to avoid irritating the regime's hardliners. The timing for such a project is no better in 2006 than it was in the previous year; many within the ruling party and the army are decidedly suspicious of Sassou's intentions. However, the president's resolve has not been dampened by such opposition and may even have been bolstered by recent successes in the end-game being played out in the troublesome south-eastern region of Pool. Moreover, ruling party reform is a key plank of Sassou's parliamentary election strategy for 2007. During his own successful presidential election campaign in November 2005, Gabonese president Omar Bongo Ondimba pointed for the first time to a future succession, suggesting that at some point after his inauguration in January 2006, he would issue the names of three or four individuals he considers suitable to take charge of his legacy. It may be overly hasty to suggest that Bongo will make such an announcement in the coming year, particularly when the ruling party must be mobilised for legislative elections in December 2006. On the other hand, although there is no danger of Bongo becoming a 'lame duck' final-term president, he may consider it opportune to prepare for succession early in his tenure in order to forestall any opposition to such a managed transition, whether from within the regime or without.
Following a positive 'yes' vote at the December 2005 constitutional referendum, the DRCongo will hold a series of elections - including presidential, legislative and local - in the first half of 2006, as it seeks to emerge from a lengthy civil war and two and a half years of political transition. A successful conclusion of the electoral process will help the vast central African state, which is bordered by nine countries, further along the road to peace and recovery, as well as helping to improve the security outlook in the entire region.
Uganda will also hold its by now well-publicised general election by March 2006, with the international community awaiting the outcome with a great deal of interest. President Yoweri Museveni, who was due to step down from power at the next elections, is instead attempting to extend his tenure by another five years following his successful campaign to have the constitution amended. The international community, which strongly advised Museveni against amending the basic law to suit his own power ambitions, may respond by slashing the development assistance it offers to Uganda.
In contrast, neighbouring Tanzania has entered a new political era following the election of Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete as the country's fourth president in December 2005. Kikwete, the candidate of the ruling Revolutionary Party of Tanzania (Chama Cha Mapinduzi - CCM), replaced the outgoing president, Benjamin Mkapa, who was forced to step down having reached the end of his second and final five-year term in office allowed by the constitution. The peaceful and routine nature of the transition in contrast to recent democratic regressions elsewhere on the African continent, including its own semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, will no doubt underscore Tanzania's position as the most stable country in a region increasingly dominated by misrule and poor governance.
Neighbouring Kenya, meanwhile, is trying to emerge from its own political crisis that has dominated events in the last quarter of 2005, following President Mwai Kibaki's now failed attempt to have a new constitution implemented, which only succeeded in widening the long-standing divisions within the president's ruling coalition. Following the huge public snub he suffered in the constitutional referendum, Kibaki responded by dismissing his entire divided cabinet, replacing it with one made up of loyalists and cronies, minus those who openly campaigned against him. This decision, seen by many as a last-ditch attempt to preserve his authority, has led to calls for the president to disband parliament and call a snap election, with the calls likely to grow louder once parliament reconvenes following its long recess in early 2006, followed by the motion for a no-confidence vote against the president.
Kenya's northern neighbour, Ethiopia, and its former province, Eritrea, are slowly edging towards another war over their unresolved differences arising from their ill-defined and disputed border. The two countries, which fought a bloody two-year war in 1998-2000, appear to be edging towards a fresh round of fighting due to Ethiopia's continued refusal to abide by an independent, UN-sponsored border arbitration decision and Eritrea's growing frustration with the international community's inaction to break the deadlock. Despite the UN threatening to slap wide-reaching sanctions on either or both sides in the event of a new war breaking out, Eritrea - whose small economy is struggling with the current no-war, no-peace stalemate - appears to be intent on forcing a settlement at all costs. Ethiopia's ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition, which is still reeling from its own domestic political crisis following its highly questionable victory at the May 2005 general election and the subsequent political dissent it brutally put down, for now appears to have adopted a more measured approach by maintaining that it will not instigate any fighting, while keeping its army on full alert.
In the Indian Ocean, economic and political difficulties will embrace both the largest of the island states and the smallest. Madagascar is no longer the backwater it once was, with minerals discoveries sparking new interest from various quarters, most notably South Africa. However, a year of cost-of-living travails in the country has seen former opposition politicians form an alliance of convenience against President Marc Ravalomanana - not yet big enough to challenge the incumbent, but enough to at least worry him. Ravalomanana has two sides: one as an energetic economic reformer who employs technocrats to get things done, and the other as a wealthy religious conservative. Next year's developments will dictate which side comes to the fore. The president's economic programme has been beset by problems that have prevented his reforms from speaking for themselves. If these persist, Ravalomanana and his Tiako i Madagasikara (TIM) party may lose much of the popular goodwill that brought them to power. He will then be thrown back onto support from the Presbyterian Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM), of which he is the lay deputy head, and a few strategic allies. This might mean more pandering to the FJKM's desire to see its interests entrenched at state level in what has historically been a multi-faith and religiously tolerant island, while in the economic sphere there runs the risk of Ravalomanana's liberalism meandering towards cronyism, in which significant sectors of the economy end up in the hands of a few core allies of the president.
Meanwhile, in the tiny Seychelles, President James Alix Michel, who inherited the presidency and the leadership of the former Marxist single party from his veteran incumbent predecessor in a 2004 mid-term handover, will face his first elections in August 2006. At these polls he will find it hard to convince islanders that his party or leadership has what it takes to lift the country out of the economic doldrums, and will increasingly resort to hardline, underhand tactics to hobble promising rivals, who better embody the younger generation's hopes. Elections are also expected in the Comoros, where sustained attention from the South African guarantors of that country's transition process has forced President Azaly Assoumani to stick to his commitment to bow out in April 2006 in order to make way for a candidate from the secession-oriented Anjouan island. At the same time, the government of Mauritius, with its comparatively sophisticated economy, will continue to struggle for the right formula to ride out the shock of losing preferential market access and guaranteed prices for its sugar in world markets. Failure to address rising unemployment could see the island's thoughtful and civil political culture becoming a little more boisterous and antagonistic.
Having dominated all political debate throughout 2005, the showcase corruption trial in South Africa of disgraced former deputy president Jacob Zuma is scheduled to finally get under way in July 2006. Long seen as South Africa's next president, Zuma was still expected to remain in the race to succeed President Thabo Mbeki upon his retirement in 2009, if he was acquitted from the graft charges he faces. However, his future as a top-level politician now appears doubtful following the National Prosecution Authority's (NPA) decision to charge him with rape in December 2005. Although still an innocent man, the rape charge appears to be the final straw to many of Zuma's influential backers within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party and its tripartite political partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). His effective sidelining will see other prominent candidates, such as his successor as deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (Zuma's former wife) and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, making a play to woo the popular support to succeed Zuma as Mbeki's heir apparent.
Zambia will hold its next presidential and parliamentary elections towards the end of 2006, with President Levy Mwanawasa and his ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) expected to face a strong opposition challenge. Mwanawasa, who is seeking his second term in office, owes his last election victory back in 2001 more to the opposition parties' disunity and their inability to unite behind a single candidate. The opposition parties are likely to try to forge some sort of alliance ahead of the ballot in an attempt to oust both the president and his party from power, but will have their work cut out. Angola's electoral fortunes will be considerably less contested: President José Eduardo dos Santos may call for polls, or he may not. He is only obliged to announce them 90 days beforehand - a prerogative he will clearly exploit in order to limit the already enfeebled opposition's freedom to campaign. Dos Santos may even wait until 2007, with few of Angola's external supporters prepared to argue with a regime awash with oil revenues, replete with investment opportunities, and making stronger plays on the sub-regional stage.
Contact: Raul Dary
24 Hartwell Ave.
Lexington, MA 02421, USA
www.globalinsight.com and www.wmrc.com