Catching up links: Ethiopia and Burundi elections, Flintlock 10 and aid & development

I have been mostly off-line and disconnected from news and currents affairs for a few days so, before I get to write the new posts , I’ll try to recap some of the stories and debates that have taken place during the past few days and which I think are worth bearing in mind:

Elections in Ethiopia

Well, as you probably know by now, Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) won the elections, as it was to be expected. The only remarkable note about this was the sheer size on the victory – the EPRDF and allied parties got 534 out of the 536 declared seats. A crushing victory like this this, has the potential for unleashing violent protests, as Barry Malone points out on this insightful post (written before the elections) on possible scenarios of how the elections may play out :

RULING PARTY WINS HUGE MAJORITY
* Analysts say if the opposition were wiped out in the polls and won only 20 to 50 seats they would immediately say the election was rigged and boycott parliament. If this happens, the eight-party opposition coalition, Medrek, is likely to make noise in the international media and meet Western diplomats in Addis Ababa to ask for help. But what everyone will be watching is whether violence breaks out as it did in 2005.

Although we need to wait to see how everything unfold, a violent scenario – which in 2005 caught the government by surprise – is not very likely, unless the international community openly encourages this, if it clearly condemns the elections. Something Addis Ababa is trying to avoid, as it is moving to secure a quick international approval of his party’s victory

Elections in Burundi

Another key electoral contest, Burundi’s local elections, took place on Monday. This was a crucial step for the stability of the country (and the region), as it would mark the line that could be followed on next month’s presidential elections and the parliamentary and senate polls on July. For an informative and personal take on the life and work of Alexis Sinduhije, leader of the opposition party “Movement for Solidarity and Development” (MSD), see this touching blog post by Alex Engwete. Early indicators showed that the ruling party, the CNDD-FDD had manage to secure up to 80% of the votes, but was not doing that well on the capital. As the results became known however, opposition parties accused the government of fraud and demanded a re-run (h/t @postcardjunky):

“We do not accept these results and the commission should take this into account. Otherwise, we will refuse to make fools of ourselves by taking part in the rest of the elections”…
“We are asking the commission to invalidate this election and organise it anew on the same day as the presidential vote on June 28,” he told AFP.
“If this is not done, we are planning to resort to other peaceful means to force the commission to listen to us,” he added…
“If you look at the results that have come out, the CNDD will win the local elections by a large margin,” said the (ruling)party’s spokesman Onesime Nduwimana.
But the opposition claimed in its statement there were obvious signs of fraud.
“The number of people registered for this election was 3.5 million but there were close to four million people who voted yesterday,” they claimed.
Nugwengezo also told AFP the opposition had evidence that the ruling party took advantage of a nationwide power cut overnight to swap the ballot boxes for ones stuffed with CNDD votes.
In a country packed with recently demobbed fighters and cheap weapons, fears of violence had been high but polling went smoothly despite a logistical hitch that delayed the poll by three days and cast doubts on its credibility.
European Union observers deployed across Burundi for the vote had initially taken heart in the orderly polling process and high turnout but the mission’s preliminary report was not due until Thursday.

FLINTLOCK 10 and other military excercises

Earlier this week also, came to an end in Mali the military exercise dubbed Flintlock 10, part of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative. The exercise, which lasted three weeks, involved seven African countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Chad as well as the US and other EU countries (France, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands and Spain). For more info on Flintlock 10, check out Sahel Blog, which has written a number of entries about it. And about the Spanish presence, El Pais carried a piece on it last Sunday, titled “The Spanish army returns to Africa”. Some of the points made by the article can also be found (in English) on this blog, “Migrants at Sea”, and they include the fact that the Spanish army was reluctant to speak about the exercise, in case people linked it to the Spanish workers kidnapped in Mali, or that another exercise, known as Phoenix Express 2010 began last week in Rota (Spain):

This exercise includes training of the Moroccan and Senegalese military by US and Spanish military personnel. According to an Africom press release, Moroccan and Senegalese Maritime Interdiction Operations Teams are being trained on tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with Maritime Interdiction Operations. Last month Spanish and US naval forces were involved in similar training exercises off the coast of Senegal under Africom’s Africa Partnership Station.

Aid and Development

A final set of recent stories touch on the fact that the way in which aid and development are seen both in Africa and outside, is undergoing a serious change, for a number of reasons we have mentioned before. Now, as well as these larger and deeper transformations, we are also seeing smaller changes, and a re-thinking of some of the positions, partly as a result of the economic crisis, partly as a result of contingent factors. I am hoping to reflect on all of this on a full post sometime soon, but for the time being, and to note that aid is gathering attention, you can check out yesterday’s Financial Times editorial on aid to Africa in which it called for “smarter spending” on these hard times – a general advice something that seems to be the recipe prescribed by everyone these days…

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