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Zimbabwe: President Mugabe faces impeachment by parliament

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The world waits to see what happens next after the military took over Zimbabwe and after 93-year-old leader President Robert Mugabe refused to resign despite pressure from the army and the ruling Zanu-PF party. 

Mugabe has confounded his critics by staying in power for so long. Sometimes dismissed as a cartoon figure abroad, he was viewed in Zimbabwe, at least originally, as a revolutionary hero who fought against white minority rule, and still enjoys respect as the “father of the nation”.

But Robert Mugabe and his supporters have used violence to keep a tight grip on power, using the machinery of the state to bolster his party and himself. His party says it is fighting capitalism and colonialism, but the country’s economic problems have tested even his most ardent supporters. He has often said he would only step down when his “revolution” was complete, but also wants to handpick his successor – something that led to the current crisis.

Wife

His unpopular wife caused the downfall of once respected Robert Mugabe.  Also Grace aged 93 and in visible decline, the battle to succeed him intensified in recent months.

The ruling party split into two factions – one backing his wife Grace, 40 years his junior, and the other his long-time ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa. When he sacked Mnangagwa, it was obvious that he was backing his wife to take power. She was deeply unpopular, partly because of her love of shopping, which led to her nickname “Gucci Grace”. Mnangagwa fought in the 1970s war of independence which brought Mugabe to power and retains close ties with many other former comrades, who occupy senior positions across the top of all of Zimbabwe’s security forces. So when he was ousted, they intervened on his behalf.

The military certainly intervened, however they have not replaced the president – yet. In a statement on television, the military said it had temporarily taken control to “target criminals” around the head of state, not  Mugabe himself, and still referred to him as “commander-in-chief”.

The army wants a veneer of constitutionality to be preserved, and certainly none of his former comrades wants to arrest him, or worse, as often happens to leaders when the military takes over.

The army wants a political process to play out – Mr Mugabe to resign and Zanu-PF to name a new leader. And the military encouraged a public march to increase pressure on him, and show that their actions had the popular support.

So far, however, he is refusing to play ball, even though the ruling Zanu-PF party has sacked him as its leader, and so parliament may have to impeach him. However, on Sunday, Mugabe vowed to remain as president until the Zanu-PF congress, due in December, so it is far from clear what happens next.

If the ousted Mnangagwa does succeed Mugabe as president, he is cut from the same cloth. He has featured prominently in all of the atrocities and attacks on opposition supporters which have been carried out since Mugabe came to power. However, he has hinted that he may introduce some economic reforms, and even work with the opposition in some form of transitional government.

Crisis

Zimbabwe has gone from one economic crisis to another over the last decade. Estimates of the country’s unemployment levels vary, but the country’s biggest trade union claims the jobless rate was as high as 90% earlier this year.

Zimbabwe has struggled with hyperinflation, which peaked in 2008 with an official rate of 231 million per cent. The country was forced to abandon its own currency at a rate of Z$35 quadrillion to US$1, adopting the use of foreign cash.

People with money stored electronically in banks are unable to access it, or are subject to strict limits on what they can withdraw. Because of this, crypto-currencies that are traded online have risen in popularity. Following the news of the military takeover, Bitcoin prices in Harare surged on Wednesday.

Because of a continuing chronic shortage of hard money, the government issued their own version of dollars called bond notes, but they have rapidly lost their value.

Impeachment

The party of Zimbabwe’s embattled President Robert Mugabe is to begin moves to impeach him. A Zanu-PF official said a motion to strip him of the presidency would be presented to parliament on Tuesday, and the process could take just two days.

The motion accuses the 93-year-old of charges including allowing his wife Grace to “usurp constitutional power”. Military leaders, who last week intervened, said Mugabe would meet his exiled former vice-president soon.

Votes are expected to be held in both the National Assembly and the Senate – Zimbabwe’s two parliamentary houses – on whether to begin impeachment proceedings.

If they pass by a simple majority, a joint committee from both chambers will be appointed to investigate removing the president. Then, if the committee recommends impeachment, the president can then be removed if both houses back it with two-thirds majorities.

Emmerson Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe after Mugabe stripped him of his position, seen by many as a way clearing the way for his wife to succeed him as leader. The move riled top army officials, who stepped in and put  Mugabe under house arrest, though he nominally remains the president.

The military said they have planned a “roadmap” with Mugabe for the future. On Sunday, despite intense pressure Mugabe surprised many by refusing to resign, instead in a TV speech vowing to preside over next month’s Zanu-PF party congress.

Impeachment proceedings are set to go ahead after a deadline set by the party for Mugabe to stand down came and went. Speaking outside a party meeting on Monday, Member of Parliament Paul Mangwana said of the president: “He is a stubborn man, he can hear the voices of the people, but is refusing to listen.” Impeachment in Zimbabwe can only occur in specific scenarios, on grounds of “serious misconduct”, “violation” of the constitution or “failure to obey, uphold or defend” it, or “incapacity”. “The main charge is that he has allowed his wife to usurp constitutional power when she has no right to run government. But she is insulting civil servants, the vice president, at public rallies. They are denigrating the army – those are the charges,” Mangwana said. “He has refused to implement the constitution of Zimbabwe – particularly we had elections for the provincial councils, but up to now they have not been put into office.

He added that the process – which some experts had thought would be lengthy – could be fast-tracked and completed by Wednesday, “because the charges are so clear”.

The opposition has tried and failed to remove Mr Mugabe using this process in the past. But now that the president has lost the support of his own ruling party and its overwhelming majority in both houses, reaching a two-thirds majority is achievable.

The vice-president would then take over  Mugabe’s position. The military, which supports Mnangagwa, would like to see him step into that role. But when he was removed from office, Phelekezela Mphoko – a known supporter of Grace Mugabe – became vice-president, and in theory would assume the presidential role.

It is not clear if Mnangagwa could be restored to his former position, and military leaders simply said the public would “be advised on the outcome of talks” between Mugabe and his former deputy.

Observation

Clearly, people generally want Robert Mugabe who failed the economy of the nation, to go. Will Robert Mugabe quit the post and politics and begin a retired life by fiving his valuable counsel to the new regime?

Interestingly, the rulers are eager to be the permanent owners of the nation. Their lust for power and craw for ability to cling on to power by crook as long as they can makes corruption rampant at all levels in the country.

Syrian president want to be the president for ever.  He does not care if Syria is destroyed in order to protect his selfish interests.

Robert Mugabe is eager to make his wife the next president so that he could continue to rule through her. .

That is the problem with most rulers. Some countries like USA and Russia gave stipulated the number of years and terms one can rule.

Why not the UN debate the issue for suitable recommendations on the length of rule of presidents and prime ministers and the terms they can enjoy “serving” the respective nation. .

Uniformity could help the nations to pick the right rulers through proper polls. 

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Africa

South Sudan: Progress on peace agreement ‘limps along’

MD Staff

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Although the transitional government in South Sudan continues to function, with state governors now appointed, among other developments, progress on the 2018 peace agreement “limps along”, the top UN official in the country told a virtual meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday. 

David Shearer, head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), updated ambassadors on the country’s ongoing political and security situations, which are unfolding amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an upturn in inter-communal violence in Jonglei and other states. 

“COVID-19 has slowed implementation of the peace agreement, including meeting key benchmarks, but the pandemic is not entirely to blame”, he said, speaking from the capital, Juba. 

“We are seeing a reversion to ‘business as usual’ where progress on the peace agreement itself limps along.” 

The peace agreement was the latest deal in efforts to end political infighting and violent conflict in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation. 

The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but descended into chaos roughly two-and-a-half years later following an impasse between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar. 

Progress ‘painfully slow’ 

Today, South Sudan now has five vice presidents who head clusters of ministries where activities are progressing well, according to Mr. Shearer. 

“Elsewhere, however, progress has been painfully slow”, he reported.  “Cabinet meetings occur irregularly, and the South Sudanese want to see the President and vice presidents meeting and working collectively.” 

Meanwhile, there has been “almost no movement” on security sector reform, while the Transitional National Legislative Assembly has yet to be reconstituted, which is delaying progress on the Constitution. 

Mr. Shearer said these continuing delays risk pushing elections out well beyond the timeline prescribed under the agreement, which will only add to the people’s growing disillusionment. 

Inter-communal tensions remain high 

The UN mission chief also briefed on the violence among Nuer, Murle and Dinka communities in Jonglei State over the past six months, which has left 600 people dead and homes torched, with women and children kidnapped. The situation has since calmed though tensions remain high. Mr. Shearer said a recent meeting among senior leaders, organized by UNMISS, was encouraging. 

However, the mission was thwarted in attempts to deploy peacekeepers following attacks launched by the National Salvation Front armed group in areas of Central Equatoria state, which were met by heavy government fire. 

“For the past three weeks, the usual mechanisms through which UNMISS coordinates its movement have seriously deteriorated. COVID-19 can be partly blamed but the influence of hardliners in the security forces is the principal obstacle,” he said. 

Later in the meeting, South Sudanese activist and feminist, Nyachangkuoth Rambang Tai, shared her concerns about the ongoing inter-communal violence and the need for greater women’s participation in governance and peacebuilding.   

She called on the international community to urgently support local civil society organizations, particularly those led by women. 

“Another way to help address the cycle of violence is to ensure transitional justice is made a priority. We cannot except citizens who lost their loved ones, or whose loved ones have been killed, to forgive and move on without healing and accountability.  This is unrealistic and will only encourage conflict,” said Ms. Tai, the Gender and Social Justice Manager with Assistance Missions for Africa. 

Violence impacts humanitarians 

Mr. Shearer outlined how South Sudan is faring in the wake of recent floods affecting some 500,000 citizens.  

On Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that it is reaching vulnerable families with urgently needed assistance. 

Aid workers have been striving to help communities impacted by the flood waters, as well as the violence, and now the pandemic.  Sometimes they pay a heavy price, as Mr. Shearer pointed out. 

 “This year, seven aid workers have tragically lost their lives and another 144 have been evacuated because of sub-national violence”, he said. 

“This meant an upturn in violence stemming from splintering between and within groups. The difference this year is that external political actors are fuelling these local conflicts with military advice and with heavy weapons.” 

Millions in need 

COVID-19 has only added to the ongoing suffering in South Sudan. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator reported that during the annual hunger season a few months back, some 6.5 million people, or more than half the population, faced severe food insecurity.  

“Overall this year, 7.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance –and that’s close to levels in 2017 when we warned of famine”, Mark Lowcock told the Council.  He added that some 1.3 million under-fives are forecasted to be malnourished: the highest figure in four years. 

The UN relief chief urged ambassadors to fund a $1.9 billion response plan to meet the ever-growing needs. 

Changes at POC sites 

With the transitional government in place and a ceasefire holding, the UN Mission in South Sudan is looking at how to better support peace efforts and protect civilians. 

More than 180,000 people are still living in Protection of Civilian (POC) sites at five UNMISS bases across the country, and Mr. Shearer said the conditions which led to their establishment no longer exist. 

As a result, UNMISS has gradually withdrawn its troops and police from “static duties” at the Bor and Wau POC sites, following consultations with the Government and others, including displaced persons. 

“The spike in subnational violence is occurring in remote areas, not near our POC sites. Therefore, we have to deploy our forces to provide protection where there is greatest need,” he said, emphasizing the need for the UN force to be robust,  nimble and proactive. 

Mr. Shearer explained that following the gradual withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, the POC sites will be under the control of the Government.   

He stressed that no one will be pushed out or asked to leave when this transition occurs, while humanitarian services will continue. 

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Africa

Why Young African Scholars Must Engage the Law and Politics of Africa through New Perspectives

Olalekan Moyosore Lalude

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The Year of Africa was a powerful phase, a transitional moment that saw Africa in liberated black and white images. In one, a woman wearing sunglasses and sitting astride a motorcycle scooter communicated freedom and a promise of a bold future.In another, a smiling, young woman in a polka dot dress wore Independence in a sash, followed by a happy crowd. In yet another, a grinning man borne on the shoulders of two other men in a throbbing crowd, carried a placard that read: COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE 1961. It was the year that saw seventeen African states begin a journey of black statehood. Those images were metaphors of liberty in a continent that had been kept away from deciding the course of its own destiny. 1960 was a beginning and the end of the African struggle.

It was the beginning of the African struggle because Africans in the independent states were transitioning from struggling against colonialism to contending against the political realities of their post-independent states. And it was the end, because those Africans didn’t have to contend against colonialism any more. In the true picture of things, it was a transition from the political control of people who sought the wealth of the continent to a struggle with murderous regimes, and the sad realization of the true damage that colonialism had wreaked in the political arrangement of the people.In Nigeria, it was the beginning of the weaponization of ethnicity and of resentful distrust in state politics.

Africa in the 1960s was a dramatic spectacle of violence, new beginnings and the creation of histories that has informed the present. Independence movements aspired towards liberated African states. The consciousness of colonial restraints inspired actions that marked the trajectory of the continent’s destiny. The political history of Africa’s becoming is a timeline of seesaw moments. Dictators have risen and have fallen in the hubris of forgetfulness thatthe powers that saw to their rise could see to their fall. The legal systems, processes, institutions and the politics of Africa were forged in the turbulence of African history.

Today it is easy to say that Africa has made progress in its strides towards social and political evolution, but the past is a mirror of solutions to present problems. This is why it has become imperative for newer approaches to emerge in the study of law and politics in the context of Africa. Founded in 2020 by me, the Carnelian Journal of Law and Politics is Africa’s response to the need for new insights on law and politics in the African context. This new journal gives young African researchers the opportunity to contribute top quality perspectives to the discourse on the law and politics of Africa. This is important as newer voices are needed to give an inter-generational balance to the debate on African law and politics. And this is why the journal has emerged to bridge the scholarly gap.

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Africa

A Tale of Two Sudans

Simon Wolfe

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For the first time in decades, Sudan is on a path to peace and democracy, turning the fall of a dictatorial regime into a reckoning with entrenched societal fissures and the overhaul of the institutions that reinforced them. On the other hand, South Sudan and its unity government, once a darling of western governments and NGOs as a model for religious freedom and democratic potential, continues to struggle to build peace and stability in the absence of any consolidated, legitimate institutions of authority.

It may be time to re-examine what we think we know about the war that split them apart.

Sudan: A Case for Cautious Optimism

Since the 2019 protests and coup that ended the repressive 30-year reign of dictator Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s transitional government is slowly working to undo decades of damage and emerge from isolation.

In recent weeks, Sudan has signed successive peace deals with rebel forces addressing grievances that have long inhibited a permanent resolution to the conflict. The agreements separate religion from the state and establish a commission for religious freedom mandated to protect the country’s Christian minority. They also grant autonomy to the contested regions of Blue Nile and South Kordofan and set Darfur on a path to reunification under its own governor. An August 31 agreement on Darfur also covers power sharing, security, transitional justice, land ownership and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.

In addition to completing the peace processes mandated in Sudan’s interim constitution, Sudan has also taken steps to reset relations internationally. Though the transitional government has limited power in this area, indications are encouraging for the potential normalisation of Sudan’s relationship with Israel – which would, in turn, support Sudan’s case for removal from the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Positive as the outlook appears to be, Sudan has a long, difficult road to recovery ahead. The transitional government has 26 months left to lay the groundwork for a civilian, democratically elected government to take over. In addition to the colossal challenge of rebuilding institutions nearly from scratch, the pandemic and the global commodity market collapse have generated urgent economic woes.

Moreover, anyone with experience on the ground in Sudan will warn against misplaced confidence at this early stage. Connection with the international community – and international markets – has long served as an incentive to end the conflict, but even the most promising of peace agreements has failed to produce sufficient stability for sustained development.

South Sudan: A Grim Reality

If Sudan calls for cautious optimism, South Sudan demands a reckoning with the failure of the international response.

When South Sudan seceded in 2011, observers were optimistic. Those in the international community – both in the omnipresent NGO sector as well as foreign governments (principally the United States) believed that the oppressed Christian South would finally be free from its Islamic subjugators in the North, and the resolution of this religious divide would finally bring peace to the region. Instead, two years after independence, a brutal civil war broke out between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former First Vice President Riek Machar, displacing significant numbers of people and leaving large swathes of the country reliant on humanitarian aid. Best estimates of numbers killed are upwards of 400,000, which at times has rivaled the war in Syria that received far greater attention.’

So, what happened? How did the Cinderella story of South Sudan’s independence become a nightmare?

The Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), the rebels turned political party who governed the country at independence, were ill-prepared to fulfil the functions of a state, despite the heavy investment and optimism afforded them by their international supporters leading up to 2011. Well before South Sudan split from the north, NGOs and aid groups had provided the overwhelming majority of state services, often with incorrect or incomplete knowledge of where resources were going. Some organisations even unwittingly provided direct financial to support to militias or funded ‘dialogues’ that served primarily as brand rehabilitation for war lords looking to take advantage of a sprawling and largely unregulated aid industry.

Arguably the international humanitarian response formed the economic, social and political foundations for the South Sudanese state that emerged in 2011. The sad irony is that these foundations have been purged by years of corruption and mismanagement since.

This dynamic followed South Sudan beyond independence, creating a cycle of escalating violence enabled by a steady flow in billions of dollars of humanitarian aid. The assumption that the Southern forces represented a unified Christian bloc fighting for religious freedom and human rights was convenient for warlords seeking resources and legitimacy and appealing to the international NGO and donor community – especially to faith-based aid efforts – but it has proved to be devastating for the millions affected by the ongoing conflict.

Ultimately, because the 2005 peace process took the Southern rebel forces’ branding at face value – with the support of the aid industry – it failed to confront the fragmentation and factionalism that had destroyed South Sudan and anticipate that these fissures would continue and undermine state-building efforts today. Though a tragedy for the South Sudanese, lessons from the failure of peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan may prove valuable to its northern neighbour – and Sudan’s transitional government appears to be learning already.

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