Utafiti: Journal of African Perspectives


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A key highlight of the year was the third Africa-eu Summit, which was held in Brussels. The summit was considered a step forward in relations but left many controversial areas untouched. The year also saw the beginning of the end of a major headache in Africa-eu relations through the completion of epas, which had dragged on for an additional seven years after the passing of the initial negotiations deadline in December 2007. The Ebola crisis presented formidable challenges to Africa that went far beyond the states and people directly affected by the outbreak. Migration continued to be high on the agenda of eu-Africa relations.


The political year was again marked by dominant-party politics, increasing repression of dissent, and the coming to light of several spectacular cases of grand corruption and mismanagement. Nonetheless, Angola successfully established itself as a regional power-broker and attracted unabated interest from foreign investors. However, the economy, still dominated by the oil industry, stagnated and was seriously affected towards the end of the year by an oil price shock. Accordingly, commodity prices rose even further, and social expenditure remained far under the actual needs of the population.


While most people in Benin were concerned about the rising cost of living, the political and societal elite continued to fight a war of words about the political intentions of incumbent President Yayi. Since his re-election in 2011, the opposition had assumed that his initiative to reform the country’s constitution was aimed at permitting him another re-election despite Benin’s two-term limit. Yayi constantly denied this in public. The third-term issue dominated the political debate and thus led to neglect of urgent socio-economic and security issues such as commodity production, port effectiveness and Boko Haram in neighbouring Nigeria.

The year was dominated by the general elections in October. As expected, the Botswana Democratic Party (bdp) maintained its dominance – albeit with a reduced popular vote. However, the two opposition parties, the Botswana Congress Party (bcp) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (udc) – a coalition of the Botswana National Front (bnf), the Botswana Movement for Democracy (bmd) and the Botswana Peoples Party (bpp) – also mounted colourful campaigns. In addition, the Independent Electoral Commission (iec) registered the highest number ever of independent candidates – suggesting that the political party primary elections were not straightforward. The economic performance continued to show signs of recovery and stability. The country maintained its foreign policy, and there were no noticeable changes in socio-economic developments and disparities.


The defining moment of 2014 in Burkina Faso was, without doubt, the end of the 27-year rule of former president Blaise Compaoré. The demise of the Compaoré regime occurred after months of opposition and civil society demonstrations against the government, and particularly against attempts to change Article 37 of the Constitution to allow Compaoré to stand in the presidential elections scheduled for 2015. A popular insurrection prevented the National Assembly from voting on a proposed modification to presidential term limits and forced Compaoré to resign from office on 31 October. After the fall of the Compaoré regime, some international actors threatened sanctions. Burkina Faso also increased its commitment to regional counter-terrorism operations by joining new regional organisations and military operations. Burkina’s economic growth slowed due its reliance on the mining sector, while the cotton sector experienced a robust harvest for the second year in a row. Optimistic forecasts and government planning for potential risks in this volatile sector offered encouraging signs for future economic development.

The coalition government, one of the pillars of Burundi’s power-sharing arrangement, was increasingly dominated by the party of President Pierre Nkurunziza. In the run-up to the 2015 elections, new electoral legislation was adopted. The national electoral commission (ceni) was strongly challenged by the opposition parties. Tensions increased within the dominant party around Nkurunziza’s alleged third term presidential ambitions. The number of breaches of security was on the rise. The government’s human rights record was negatively affected by some internationally very visible cases. A truth and reconciliation commission was established. Relations with the un and with neighbouring Rwanda became increasingly tense. Students at the University of Burundi went on strike on several occasions. Some efforts were made to diversify Burundi’s economy.


In March, the central bank reduced the principal interest rates in an attempt to halt the downward trend of economic growth. The number of tourists dropped by 2.6%, though this was partly compensated for by only a 0.6% reduction in nights spent by the visitors. Following strong protests against the nomination of a former minister as the new governor of the central bank, in November, Prime Minister José Maria Neves gave in and appointed another candidate. In mid-December, the 36-year old Janira Hopffer Almada, minister of youth, employment and human resources development, achieved a convincing victory in the direct elections of the ruling ‘Partido Africano da Independência de Cabo Verde’ (paicv) and succeeded Neves as party leader.


The serious security crisis in the north of the country, characterised by repeated attacks and officially attributed to the Nigerian-based Boko Haram movement, was the main concern throughout the year, mobilising the army and raising controversies domestically and internationally. Linked to this issue, the relationship between the regime of President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, and France, the former colonial power, continued to deteriorate, though not in public.


With the car crisis and Boko Haram spilling over into Cameroon and Chad, security issues were again impacting on the lives of many people and were also high on the agenda of Central Africa’s decision-makers. Both aspects showed how permeable frontiers were and how strongly crises in the neighbourhood could affect the entire sub-region.


The car witnessed another difficult year, starting with more armed violence throughout the country, including in the capital, Bangui. But a change in the interim leadership, massive deployment of peacekeepers and some initial negotiations between belligerents provided hope. Without the strong engagement of the international community it would have been impossible to lower tensions and mitigate the humanitarian crisis. A ceasefire agreement was signed, albeit not a full peace agreement, which seemed difficult to reach in light of the lack of cohesion of the various armed movements. The mostly Muslim Séléka alliance split into three major factions, and the Christian anti-Balaka movement was even more decentralised – local militias used the label, but would not obey orders from self-proclaimed leaders. International efforts to involve former presidents Bozizé and Djotodia in peace talks surprised the interim government in Bangui and appeared inconsistent with the sanctions regime.