Category Archives: Africa

Angola – The ruling party’s “exemplary transition”: the MPLA’s winds of change and continuity

On the 8th September, Angola experienced a true watershed moment since the end of the civil war in 2002: the VI Extraordinary Congress of the MPLA – the party which has ruled the country since its independence in 1975 – ended the last bastion of power of the long-serving ruler José Eduardo dos Santos, i.e. the ruling party’s presidency.

This Extraordinary Congress had a single point on its agenda: the conclusion of the so-called “process of political transition” at the party leadership level. Thus, the current President of the Republic and the MPLA’s vice-president, João Lourenço, was elected as the MPLA’s new chairman with 98.5% of the votes from 2,448 delegates.[1] The Congress and the vote for the party’s first new president since 1979 were broadcasted by the Angola Public Television (TPA). More than a party event, it was a national event charged with unprecedented political meaning.

As discussed in a previous post, Angola’s presidential system comprises two main sources of power: 1) the president, who is no longer directly elected but rather is the number one name on the party or coalition’s winning list for the parliamentary elections, and 2) the ruling party. Very importantly, the President of the Republic as the head of the executive is subordinate to the party leadership.

For a political culture based on a hegemonic logic of power, as is the case in Angola, it is only natural to say that these two sources of power must be controlled by a single person. However, the country’s recent political transition started first at the state level and then at the ruling party level. This caused a major novelty after the legislative elections of August 2017: a dual power situation, as João Lourenço was the new president of Angola but Dos Santos was still the MPLA’s president. The ruling party’s Extraordinary Congress put an end to this unique power situation. As a result the MPLA, as the ultimate source of power, guaranteed the “unconditional support” of the party militants for Lourenço and, consequently, for his presidential power. Moreover, the MPLA’s game of thrones became very clear in this Congress, especially in two aspects detailed below: the new leadership discourse and the post-Congress intraparty balance of power.

João Lourenço’s discourse: Intraparty reconciliation and anti-corruption within the MPLA

The new president’s discourse was received with great enthusiasm by the Congress delegates. First of all, João Lourenço surprised everyone by presenting himself as the 5th president of the MPLA. Despite the film screening before his discourse on the party’s “exemplary transition” in which the history of the MPLA started only with Agostinho Neto (the MPLA’s 3rd president), Lourenço did not fail to mention the first two leaders who preceded Neto (Ilídio Machado and Mário Pinto de Andrade). Moreover, he asked for a big round of applause for all four party leaders before him. It was an important gesture, as the MPLA still lacks intraparty reconciliation with its dark history of violent episodes of dissent and member persecution within the party.[2] Nevertheless, this break of silence regarding the party’s leadership in the past could just be a non-pioneering strategy for gaining broad sympathy and support, including from members who had been alienated by the party during the Neto and Dos Santos presidencies.[3]

Second was the reiteration of the anti-corruption discourse; Lourenço incited the MPLA to lead the fight (almost a crusade) against corruption, nepotism, flattery and impunity as the main public enemies. More importantly, this fight should take place even if it means that the first ones “to overthrow are militants or even high-ranking party leaders, who have committed crimes or who by their social behavior are tarnishing the party’s image.” This anti-corruption push within the party received an effusive round of applause among the delegates, which is a sign that the emphasis on “anti-corruption” continues to feed the new leader’s popularity.

But this discourse against corruption took another tone when several governmental and party officials linked to Dos Santos began to be removed and, even more striking, brought to justice. More recently, Dos Santos’ son, José Filomeno dos Santos, and his business partner, Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, were placed in preventive detention and charged with fraud over an alleged illegal transfer of $500m while Filomeno dos Santos was in charge of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, together with former Central Bank Governor Valter Filipe da Silva. Also, the Angolan authorities charged and arrested Norberto Garcia (former MPLA spokesman and director of the Technical Unit for Private Investment – UTIP), and Augusto Tomás (former Transport Minister) over corruption allegations. Both were removed from the MPLA’s Political Bureau.

Regardless of the next developments in justice, we can say that these events are beneficial to Lourenço’s image in two ways: 1) the new leader is somehow honoring his promises of fighting corruption and impunity, leaving the opposition parties somewhat perplexed and the citizens optimistic about the “winds of change” and 2) the promotion of the notion that the untouchables are no longer untouchables; however, perhaps this only means a new configuration of the chessboard for the sake of Lourenço’s power. Moreover, these detentions are also a sign that the Judiciary is still not independent from the presidency.

The party chessboard: a new balance of intraparty power

Following the Congress, the 5th Extraordinary Session of the Central Committee was chaired by the new party leader and elected the party vice president, general secretary and members of the Political Bureau (PB), the permanent governing body of the party. In other words, a new balance of power within the MPLA is in place that will support João Lourenço’s presidency.

Under this new balance, we’ve seen the exit of almost half of the members of the former PB, including figures from the Dos Santos entourage, historical members, influential generals and provincial governors. It is worth mentioning that these provincial governors were also removed from office. Also, the new party vice president, Luísa Damião, a former journalist and MPLA MP since 2012, is the first woman to assume this important party position, which was well received by a predominantly female population.

So, what we see is a strategy of “cleaning the house” and bringing allies into the PB, which is such an important MPLA body that it is responsible for the party and government programs, for the approval of the executive team and the party’s candidates for the presidency and national assembly, and for the ratification of the list of candidates for local government bodies.[4]

Is the MPLA’s case a trend for political change in African ruling parties?

As is happening in other African liberation movements-turned governments, the Angolan historical ruling party has also been on a path of moral decay and deficit of democracy.[5] Some authors have discussed a wave of political change in some African ruling parties marked by some internal reforms and by a discourse of their leaders against corruption (including inside their own parties) for power re-consolidation purposes. The MPLA is no exception.

Indeed, the anti-corruption discourse and its concrete punishment measures led by João Lourenço serve both internal and external purposes. Internally, it helps to reinforce the new president’s popularity levels and support by society, and it somehow empties the critical discourse from the opposition parties. Externally, it helps the country gain confidence and more credibility in order to receive investment from the west. We must not forget that Lourenço mentioned in his Congress discourse that corruption has caused “many damages” to the Angolan economy and has affected “the confidence of investors,” as it undermines “the reputation and credibility of the country.” Also, the new Angolan executive asked the IMF for assistance, in a time when this international institution seems to have made a comeback in Africa. The new leader with dual power is seeking dollars and loans to fulfill his major goal and it is a test to his presidency and legacy: the “economic miracle,” which is still based on the liberalization and competitiveness of the Angolan economy.

The VI Extraordinary Congress of the MPLA ended the long and increasingly unpopular cycle of rule of Dos Santos. Although it was not an example of intraparty democracy, due to its single candidate election and the fact that the party still encourages the cult of the leader and the centralization of the decision and policy-making by a small clique, it also represented a strategy for refreshing the bases of the party, especially when its new leader’s fight against corruption has been received with such overall enthusiasm.[6]

When the MPLA emphasizes its “exemplary transition,” it fundamentally means a narrative of “peaceful” continuity mired in a violent past and the need to promote the idea of party cohesion around the new leader. The winds of continuity blow in the same strategy of changing the configuration of intraparty power to break with the former leader and his followers’ influence, using the popular anti-corruption and accountability discourse to consolidate, internally and externally, the power of the new presidency. In one year, Lourenço removed more than 200 people from state office (including governors, public business administrators and senior military leaders), and now he has been able to remove important members from the party office. But will Dos Santos and his followers stay quiet and still?

Notes

[1] 38.24% of them women and 36.05% youth.

[2] See Mabeko Tali, Jean-Michel (2018). Guerrilhas e Lutas Sociais. O MPLA perante Si Próprio (1960-1977). Lisbon: Mercado de Letras Editores. Concerning the national reconciliation process, João Lourenço also promised to return the deceased remains of Jonas Savimbi, the former UNITA leader killed during the civil war in 2002, to the main opposition party before the end of the year.

[3] The strategy of reunification of the “MPLA’s large family” was also used by Dos Santos, for instance during the electoral campaign of 1992.

[4] See article 80º of the MPLA statutes.

[5] See also Bereketeab, Redie (ed.) (2017). National Liberation Movements as Government in Africa. London: Routledge; Southall, Roger (2013). Liberation Movements in Power: Party & State in Southern Africa. Woodbridge, Suffolk: James Currey; Scottsville, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press.

[6] Also, the first local elections are expected to be held in 2020; however, which form they should take is still under discussion.

Giovanni Carbone – Introducing the new Africa Leadership Change (ALC) Project

This is a guest post by Giovanni Carbone, ISPI & Università degli Studi di Milano

Political leaders – the way they rule and how they come to power – can tell a lot about a country’s present and future. This is especially true for Africa, a continent in which personalistic rule, authoritarianism, and underdevelopment have historically gone hand in hand. Not surprisingly, leadership handovers in Africa often catalyse extraordinary attention. Just consider the past twelve months or so, during which the region witnessed some dramatic leadership transfers. In Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, one of the continent’s most despised power-holders, was replaced by his former vice president after years of increasingly authoritarian rule and disappointing development performances. South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, who had been accused of 783 counts of corruption, was forced to step down by his own party, the ruling African National Congress, handing power to Cyril Ramaphosa. In Ethiopia, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn voluntarily resigned to smooth the path for a new political opening, leading to the surprise rise of the first ethnic Oromo leader in the country’s modern history. José Eduardo Dos Santos left office in Angola after almost four decades in power, having become one of the continent’s longest-serving presidents. Are these heralds of democratic progress? Will they trigger more meaningful political, social and economic developments?

The Africa Leadership Change (ALC) Project is a truly unique interactive data visualization tool offering answers to these questions and insights on many of Africa’s past and present political dynamics, with a particular focus on national leaders. Hosted on the website of the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), and conceived by Giovanni Carbone (ISPI and Università degli Studi di Milano) and Alessandro Pellegata (Università degli Studi di Milano), the ALC Project is based on an original collection of data covering all leadership changes that have taken place on the continent from 1960 to the present day. The ALC dataset tracks the political history of each individual African country through the lenses of leadership transfers, with complete information on their timing, frequencies and types. It records whether such handovers occurred through violent transitions, coups d’état or armed insurgencies, or rather through elections, and whether electoral changeovers took place in a framework of party continuity or else they marked the advent to power of opposition forces.

One added value of the ALC Project rests in its interactive design, which makes it easily accessible to both scholars and a wider audience of journalists, policy-makers and stakeholders with an interest in African affairs. The different types of information featured by ALC can be visually represented through four main interactive tabs. Interacting with the map of the African continent located in the first tab (“Current African Leaders”), the user can look up which leader is currently in office and the level of democracy for each of Africa’s 54 sovereign states. A chart on African leaders’ duration in office also reveals who are today’s longest-serving leaders and who are the newcomers. The evolution of these and other political dynamics, for all the countries of the region, can be visualized in a second screen, called “Dynamic Map”.

Besides data on leadership changes, the ALC project provides time-series recording a country’s progress in a wider range of political and socioeconomic indicators, from economic growth to human development, from demographic expansion to average life expectancy. These can be visualized in the “Dynamic Map” tab. Most importantly, through the “Charts” tools, the user can create personalized line graphs which complement information on leadership changes with information on a country’s economic and social trends over time. Countries can be compared with each other, or contrasted with regional average values. Finally, using the “How Leaders Change” tab, those interested in how leadership transitions have taken place in African countries and in how modes of leadership change have evolved through history can easily track the relative or absolute numbers of violent, peaceful but non-electoral, or electoral changes, and the different forms each of these can take.


Leaders and leadership transfers shaped Africa’s modern political history and will contribute to shaping the continent’s future. We shall follow these and related developments with regular updates of the ALC dataset.

Tanzania – The “new” CCM, same as the old CCM? Continuity and change in authoritarian parties

Under Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli, elected in October 2015, much has changed in Tanzania’s politics. Power has become more centralised in the hands of the President, opposition parties marginalised, and state security forces more prominent, to name but a few notable trends.

Rather than comment generally on these changes, though, this post examines one important element, namely how Tanzania’s long-time ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, has evolved over the past couple years to become the “New CCM”. What is so “new”, exactly? To what extent is the party building on its own historical inheritance? And how is it breaking from the past?

More broadly, this is a post about how we understand continuity and change in a ruling party, and what that understanding can tell us about a regime’s changing distribution of power. In what follows, I outline an approach to studying authoritarian party cohesion and institutional strength, plus how this relates shifting power dynamics. I then sketch out how to apply this approach to a more in-depth case analysis, in this instance, of Tanzania’s CCM.

How to think about authoritarian party institutions

Much of the recent comparative literature on authoritarian party institutions presents them as an important elite coordinating mechanism. The general idea is that ruling parties support a credible power-sharing arrangement, to use the favoured political science jargon; once formed, they help independently shape and constrain patterns of elite behaviour, thereby securing greater regime stability and endurance.[1] This understanding builds on a consensus within the rational choice school that institutions “structure social interaction and produce equilibrium outcomes, that is outcomes that no one has an incentive to alter.”[2]

There is an alternative way of viewing party institutions, however, inspired by a mix of critical political economy and historical institutionalist traditions.[3] This approach places an analysis of power centre stage. Rather than presenting institutions as stable coordinating devices, it highlights how they are themselves part of an ongoing power struggle; they are “objects of political competition”[4] that “reflect, and also reproduce and magnify, particular patterns of power distribution in politics.”[5] Institutions are, in other words, sources of power in their own right; they “actively facilitate the organization and empowerment of certain groups while actively disarticulating and marginalising others.”

Adapting this second approach to the study of parties, the key question is not about how party institutions shape the political behaviour of elites; rather, the focus is on how powerful individuals and groups navigate within an existing institutional framework, and how they seek to change it. Phrased differently, we are no longer talking abstractly about what “the Party” does, as a would-be independent coordinating device; we are instead trying to understand who is best able to bend party institutions to their political will, how and to what effect.

This study has at least three parts to it, as I elaborate in some of my other work.[6]

First, there is a need to appreciate the significance of a shifting societal distribution of power, and notably of ownership and wealth.[7] This is an area in which authoritarian elites intervene directly, including with strategies of “politicized accumulation”;[8] they influence opportunities for private individuals’ to accumulate wealth but also whether and how these individuals can use their wealth as political finance or patronage.

Second, shifting the focus to party institutions themselves, we must analyse how a prevailing distribution of power influences the ability of political elites to manipulate party structures and rules. Where power is more dispersed and competition across rival factions intense, we may see the outright subversion or strategic redeployment of formal rules as determined by informal pressures.[9] Where authoritarian leaders are, by contrast, able to consolidate power further, they may reinforce this effort by centralising and streamlining party structures, thereby limiting opportunities for would-be rivals to coordinate and form opposing factions. Whatever the specific power dynamics in play, though it is important to add that history matters; a party’s institutional inheritance, the mix of formal rules and established norms, defines the existing set of institutional resources that elites can leverage. It also affects the imaginative possibilities for actors looking to create new institutional arrangements.

This brings us to the third element in our study, namely ideas. A particular—again, often inherited—set of ideas will shape both how political actors understand their own interests and the strategic options available to them. It also shapes what actions may be deemed legitimate, and thus what narrative can be built to justify them. All of this applies in the case of party institutions, specifically, as I hope to show below.

Indeed, moving on from this perhaps rather dense theoretical discussion, I now turn to the central focus: Tanzania and President Magufuli’s “New” CCM.

Introducing CCM, from socialism to party “privatization”

To understand what Magufuli is trying to do now, we must understand what came before.

Briefly, Tanzania’s ruling party has continued to evolve—as an institution—from its pre-independence days as the spearhead of a nationalist struggle to the present.

While in the early 1960s, CCM—then the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) [10]—underwent a period of institutional erosion, its fortunes reversed with the introduction of one-party rule in 1965 and then President Nyerere’s Arusha Declaration in 1967, which committed Tanzania to Ujamaa, a brand of African socialism. The Declaration and subsequent economic reforms restricted opportunities for private sector expansion and accumulation while centralising rents and thus patronage in the hands of state and party officials. This economic balance of power then buttressed parallel efforts to strengthen the ruling party, notably by enhancing the control of the Central Committee and National Executive Committee at the top while extending its national reach through multiple layers of regional, district and branch structures, all the way down to the 10-House cell unit. Tanzania’s relative poverty prevented it from developing anything like the strength of, say, eastern Europe’s communist regimes while low-level factionalism and informal patronage networks endured.[11] But it was far more cohesive and institutionally strong than, for instance, its counterpart in neighbouring Kenya, whose post-independence political economy was more capitalist and private sector-oriented.

This socialist balance of power in Tanzania, already under strain in the late 1970s and early 1980s, changed dramatically with IFI-backed structural adjustment reforms from the mid-1980s. As Tanzania’s trade was liberalised, its vast array of parastatals slowly dismantled and privatised, and its state-owned banks sold off, a new form of “wild capitalism” took root. This was characterised by the growth of a new politico-economic elite, the proliferation of rival patron-client factions within the ruling party, and growing corruption. The knock-on effects for CCM’s institutional strength and cohesion were equally profound. The Ujamaa-era efforts to erect a barrier between political and business spheres failed and were then abandoned, leaving informal patronage networks to take root and grow within and around the existing party structures. Individuals within the party’s bureaucracy, from the highest to lowest levels, were ensnared in this factional competition. Meanwhile, formal procedures, notably governing candidate selection, were undermined as various forms of bribery and private influence peddling became the norm.

By 2000, the year after founding President and “Father of the Nation” Julius Nyerere passed on, the then President Benjamin Mkapa warned of CCM’s ongoing “privatisation”, and this at a time when he himself felt threatened by a set of nouveau-riche business elite-cum-political financiers. While Mkapa attempted a series of reforms, his successor—President Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015)—road to power on the back of his own powerful mtandao, or network, only to see it fracture into competing factions, which he then struggled to control. Kikwete repeatedly articulated a commitment to reform and more stringent anti-corruption efforts, notably within CCM itself, but these efforts were largely unsuccessful, with Kikwete caught between different factions—attempting to tame, appease and build them in turn.

By the end of his presidency, concern about CCM’s institutional drift was widespread, as were fears about its moral decay. Once a party for the wanyonge, the down and out, it had been taken over by the matajiri, the rich.

Enter Magufuli, “The Unexpected”

As noted in previous posts, Magufuli’s victory in the 2015 race to be CCM presidential nominee was a surprise. He was Magufuli, “The Unexpected”, as labelled by the wonderfully wry Elsie Eyakuze.

After a complicated sequence of events during which CCM’s top leadership broke the party’s own selection rules and two rival factions knocked each other out of the running, Magufuli became the nominee.  He lacked any strong political base, or mtandao. He faced a further challenge after leading CCM heavyweight, Edward Lowassa, defected to become the presidential candidate for an emboldened opposition coalition, bringing many political financiers and CCM members with him. This was the biggest defection CCM had ever seen, leaving Magufuli’s former rivals for the presidential nomination to lend their own support and campaign infrastructure to a newly constituted election task force.

But what started as a challenge arguably became an opportunity for Magufuli once in office. Although he still needed to build his own base, the departure of Lowassa meant that one of the most powerful informal networks for political coordination within CCM had been undermined. Meanwhile, many of Lowassa’s associates—still in the party—were left fearful of being labelled wasaliti, traitors.

Magufuli—in keeping with what his apparent personal leadership proclivities—went on to seize this opportunity, pursuing a strategy of centralising power as both President and, from mid-2016, CCM Chairman. While this strategy has several relevant components, not least a form of “autocratic legalism”, constraints on the opposition, and closer ties with the security forces, I focus below on two important dimensions relating to the ruling party itself: a new strategy of “politicized accumulation”, limiting independent sources of political finance, and extensive party institutional reforms, centralising power under his leadership.

As implied in the above discussion, these two dimensions are mutually reinforcing; a narrowing societal distribution of power and resources is reflected and amplified through the consolidation of party institutional control under the Chairman.

Disciplining the private sector, empowering the State

Magufuli’s new strategy of politicized accumulation and financial discipline can itself be broken down into several components.

First, there is his anti-corruption push launched immediately after entering office. Public servants who abused their office risked falling foul of the new “bursting boils” initiative, which swiftly claimed the heads of, for instance, the Tanzania Port Authority, the Tanzania Revenue Authority, and the head of the Preventing and Combating of Corruption Bureau. Private sector actors were also put on notice with one of Tanzania’s wealthiest men, Said Bakhresa, tangled in the customs duty affair that helped fell the TRA boss. Two more prominent businessmen implicated in a multi-million-dollar energy sector scandal under Kikwete, Harbinder Singh Sethi and James Rugemalira, were later arrested and now, over a year later, are still languishing in jail awaiting trial. Other politically-connected businessmen have been charged with a range of offenses, included tax avoidance, corrupt transactions and money laundering. Over time, people have increasingly asked questions about the extent of Magufuli’s anti-corruption zeal, with some people allegedly wrongly ensnared in prolonged investigations while others are apparently overlooked. At the very least, though, the President has sent a message to both public officials and private actors: tread carefully, or there will be consequences.

Beyond this anti-corruption push, Magufuli has adopted a new policy orientation in his pursuit of “Tanzania ya viwanda”, an industrialised Tanzania, that have limited private sector expansion and investor confidence. Dramatic cuts to public servants’ allowances and other emoluments reduced the circulation of money in the economy, with perhaps the most direct effects felt in the hospitality industry. More aggressive revenue collection and fluctuations in fiscal policy have also contributed to a view among many private sector actors that the economy had declined, as indicated by a survey conducted last year of medium-sized firms.[12] An increase in non-performing loans combined with the government’s decision to move its accounts from commercial banks to the Bank of Tanzania saw interest rates rise and banks reduce their lending. In mining, the government has adopted a very aggressive posture vis-à-vis several foreign investors and seen them halt or scale back operations.

I could go on, but the main point is that a combination of policies adopted by the Magufuli government have limited the surplus available in the private sector, including any money for political finance. Some of this may be an unintended consequence, as President Magufuli and his Ministers have met more with business associations than their predecessors and have repeatedly affirmed that the private sector is key to the industrialisation effort—so long as it pays its fair share of tax. A number of individual businessmen, however, who have political ties to either the opposition or now collapsing factions within CCM, have seen their business interests directly targeted—for alleged tax arrears, confiscation of land leased by the government, loss of government procurement contracts, and the like. And this, in addition to the above-mentioned cases of people caught out for corruption.

I final trend worth noting is the government’s statist turn. It is using procurement contracts, state-owned banks and pension funds to channel finance towards parastatals, military-owned enterprise, the prison service, and various government agencies who are expanding or starting new ventures in construction, agricultural production, processing, and manufacturing. The government has also pushed for a greater share of ownership in public-private partnerships, notably in Tanzania’s lucrative extractive sector. As the Executive Director of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation recently commented, “It has reached a point where the government feels happy to do business with itself instead of with the private sector.” While part of the reason for this approach is an oft-repeated conviction that it is save money, the politically relevant point is that the statist emphasis ensures the further centralisation of rents, and thus of funds to bankroll either opposition parties or rival factions within CCM.

In sum, Magufuli has adopted an overall economic approach that—both intentionally and, in some instances, perhaps less so—is limiting sources of independent political finance, and thus taking a first important step towards consolidating power and resources.

Creating the “New” CCM

These economic interventions are mirrored—and seemingly magnified—by an explicit campaign to centralise control within CCM’s institutions. This effort involves what might seem a paradoxical mix of institutional strengthening and personalisation. Slater (2003) has already examined how these two can—and do—go together in an authoritarian context,[13] although his analysis of the institutions involved is rather vague. What I highlight here, narrowing the focus to a ruling party, is how Magufuli has reinforced the structures within CCM that can help centralise power under the Chairman; when it is politically expedient, however, he has also used those same structures more opportunistically, in the process actually breaking party rules. This gets back to the core idea of institutions as a political resource, a tool to be used when convenient and ignored, manipulated or changed when not.

Magufuli set a major institutional reform process in train shortly after he took over as Chairman from Kiwkete in July, 2016. By December, the CCM National Executive Committee (NEC)—closely guided by President Magufuli and the Central Committee (CC)—had approved a set of recommended reforms to the party constitution. These were then voted on at a National Congress meeting in March 2017.

The March meeting coincided with a wave of expulsions from CCM of “traitors” and rumours of widespread discontent, with two MPs detained by police for questioning. Even so, the National Congress rubber stamped the proposed reforms. These included slashing the frequency of party meetings and reducing the membership of key party organs. Crucially, the number of NEC members was halved, and the number of CC members was reduced from 34 to 26, a significant proportion of which are appointed by the Chairman. Property belonging to CCM’s affiliated mass organisations—including the influential crucibles of CCM faction-forming, the Women’s League and Youth League—was also brought under the control of the central Party, whose Board of Trustees would be responsible for routine oversight.

While there were too many reforms to mention all of them here, a final highly significant change entailed drastically centralising control over parliamentary nominations. The new rules strip party members of their right to participate in primaries, instead designating a more restricted Constituency Congress as the body entitled to conduct primaries. But regardless of who participates, the primaries risk losing much of their meaning as the revised rules also empower the Central Committee to determine—for the first time ever—what candidates will participate in those primaries, with a maximum of three. The Central Committee also retains its right to advise the NEC on the final selection of a parliamentary nominee after the primaries have happened.

By shifting power from party members to the Central Committee, this proposed change alters to whom MPs are most directly accountable; now the Central Committee and Party Chairman play a bigger role than ever in deciding their political fate. Of course, how rules are applied in practice matters as much as how they appear on paper, particularly with candidate selection procedure, which has been routinely undermined by informal pressures since at least the 1990s. But a spate of by-elections—triggered by opposition MPs defecting to CCM—has seen the Central Committee unilaterally imposing the recently defected MPs as the new CCM by-election candidates, much to the chagrin of many lower-level party members. As such, the rules continue to be broken, but in a way that centralises power even further.

These reforms, which on paper clearly centralise power, are also presented as part of a strategy for rooting out factionalism and corruption within CCM. And indeed, they would appear to limit opportunities for building and sustaining patron-client networks without the blessing of the Chairman himself. Unsurprisingly, therefore, certain practices appear to be on the wane. For instance, previously, “there were some people who were actually hunting to be a member of the CC”, as noted by a CCM activist in discussion. That is because “you are privileged to know every development within the party and country,” which was a particular “advantage” for some politicians “doing business as well”.

There are additional instances, though, where the link is even closer, tying together CCM leaders’ institutional reform agenda and their effort to wrest control over political finance. In addition to the above-mentioned case of CCM’s mass organisations, a key example is the effort to audit and control CCM’s own assets, thereby ensuring greater financial autonomy. In this vein, Magufuli appointed an asset-tracing committee chaired by the University professor, Bashiru Ally, in December 2017, which then submitted its report in May this year. While the report has not been made public, it is alleged that many party assets—from football stadiums to petrol stations—were effectively “privatised” by CCM officials, and this from local to national level. Quite apart from helping to centralise control over party revenue, though, the report is also a tool for control; many prominent politicians are reportedly implicated and thus have the threat of a formal charge hanging over them—should they step out of line.

While this is still only a sketch of the changes within CCM, it nevertheless gives some sense of how these are geared towards strengthening institutions of central control, even as these structures and procedures may be bent further to fit a particular political agenda of the top leadership.

Before concluding, it is worth briefly reflecting on what ideas frame some of these recent changes. Many resonate with earlier mentioned concerns about CCM’s institutional drift and moral decay. Magufuli himself explicitly invokes Nyerere’s legacy, both with his economic interventions and ambition for a “New” CCM. Some of the historical resonances are even more explicit when coming from Bashiru Ally, who Magufuli appointed as CCM Secretary General in May. Himself a left-wing academic and champion of a certain Ujamaa legacy, Bashiru routinely invokes a language reminiscent of 1960s and 1970s TANU rhetoric. In his first press conference, he drove home that the party was returning to the “principles of its founders”, the “principles of the Arusha Declaration” to “reduce the gap between the haves and the have nots” and to uplift “the downtrodden.” He has further insisted that CCM must be “self-reliant”, another Nyerere-ist aim, cutting ties with its private financiers, or ensuring they only donate without expecting favours in return. Finally, he has queried the wealth of politicians, for instance, accusing some of stealing land from the poor.

This return of an old language, an old set of ideas helps frame and to some extent justify what Magufuli is doing. It renders his actions intelligible in a Tanzanian context.

But in many ways, the supposed historical similarities linking the “New” CCM and the CCM of past years are superficial. The economic interventions are statist, focused notably on big infrastructure projects, but without the emphasis on cooperative ownership or the democratic management of Ujamaa villages that defined the early TANU efforts.

As regards institutional changes to CCM, and notably Magufuli’s centralisation of control, this has raised deep—if not always very vocal—concerns among both the party’s rank-and-file members and its elite. In a much-commented on statement, Former President Mkapa (1995-2005) declared he wanted to hear less of “me, me” and more about “the Government of CCM”. Meanwhile, a statement by Bashiru regarding the discretionary enforcement of party rules, notably for candidate selection, was also widely circulated and criticised. “What’s written [in the CCM constitution], if its useful, it’s used,” Bashiru noted, before adding, “if it appears not to be useful, it’s changed.” As one commentator argued, “CCM […] is decaying its own institutions that give it legitimacy beyond electoral ballots.”

Some concluding thoughts

There are still many questions regarding how sustainability the changes Magufuli has introduced, both economically and politically, and thus what compromises he will have to make.

But for now, he has combined efforts to reshape the distribution of power in Tanzania with a drive for party reform; he has reduced the potential for rival patron-client factions to emerge through his economic interventions whilst further magnifying this effect through his strengthening of party structure, and selective breaking of certain rules.

To return to a more general, theoretical discussion, there are notable advantages to be gained from adopting a political economy analysis of party institutions, one that appreciates the complex power struggles that go on within them, and that lead to their gradual evolution. As I try to show through the Tanzanian case, it is through this analytical framing that we can make sense of institutional continuity and change in an authoritarian party, how it is both shaped by and in turn helps shape a particular distribution of power, and what effects this then has on a range of political and—although this is not the main focus here[14]—economic outcomes.

This approach is radically different from a the more widespread tendency to present authoritarian party institutions as independent coordinating devices that improve regime stability and survival. This understanding of what parties are and how they work is not particularly realistic, nor is the key outcome of interest actually that interesting. Focusing our attention on why CCM has survived in power for over 50 years, for instance, risks missing out a discussion of what has actually happened during that time, and why.[15] Who has replaced whom in power? Who has become richer? Who has become poorer? What are the political implications of that?

A political science literature on authoritarian parties would likely provide a greater service, shedding more light on politically salient outcomes, if it moves away from its established moorings, and starts to explore new approaches.

 

 

[1] Brownlee, Jason. 2007. Authoritarianism in an age of democratization. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

Magaloni, Beatriz. 2008. “Credible Power-Sharing and the Longevity of Authoritarian Rule.” Comparative Political Studies 41 (4/5):715-41.

Reuter, Ora John. 2017. The Origins of Dominant Parties: Building Authoritarian Institutions in Post-Soviet Russia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[2] Levi, Margaret 2009. “Reconsiderations of Rational Choice in Comparative and Historical Analysis ” In Comparative Politics: Rationality, Culture, and Structure ed. M. I. Lichbach and A. Zuckerman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 128.

[3] Pepinsky, Thomas. 2014. “The Institutional Turn in Comparative Authoritarianism.” British Journal of Political Science 44 (3):631-53.

Collord, Michaela. 2018. “The political economy of institutions in Africa: Comparing Authoritarian Parties and Parliaments in Tanzania and Uganda”, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

[4] Boone, Catherine. 1992. Merchant capital and the roots of state power in Senegal, 1930-1985. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7.

[5] Thelen, Kathleen. 1999. “Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics.” Annual Review of Political Science 2:394.

[6] Collord, 2018.

[7] Sangmpam, S.N. 2007. “Politics Rules: The False Primacy of Institutions in Developing Countries.” Political Studies 55:201-24.

Rodan, Garry, and Kanishka Jayasuriya. 2012. “A Social Foundations Approach.” In Routledge Handbook of Democratization, ed. J. Heynes. Oxford: Routledge.

Gray, Hazel. 2018. Turbulence and Order in Economic Development: Institutions and Economic Transformation in Tanzania and Vietnam. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[8] Boone, 1992.

[9] On the interaction between formal and informal institutions, see:

Helmke, Gretchen and Steven Levitsky. 2006. Informal institutions and democracy: Lessons from Latin America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

On modes of institutional change, see:

Mahoney, James, and Kathleen Thelen. 2010. “A theory of gradual institutional change.” In Explaining institutional change: ambiguity, agency and power ed. J. Mahoney and T. Kathleen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[10] TANU ruled continental Tanzania (Tanganyika) from 1961 while another party, ASP, governed in Zanzibar from 1964 until 1977 when TANU and ASP merged to form a single party, CCM.

[11] Gray, 2018.

[12] World Bank. 2017. Tanzania Economic Update: Managing Water Wisely: 8.

[13] Slater, Dan. 2003. “Iron Cage in an Iron Fist: Authoritarian Institutions and the Personalization of Power in Malaysia” Comparative Politics 36(1): 81-101.

[14] Gray, 2018.

Whitfield, Lindsay, Ole Therkildsen, Lars Buur, and Anne Mette Kjaer. 2015. The politics of African industrial policy: a comparative perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

[15] Pepinsky (2014) makes a similar point.

DRC – 21 candidates for one seat

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the election commission (CENI) has released the final candidate list for the December 23 presidential election. The list has 21 names: three political heavyweights and 18 candidates with few chances to win, particularly as the election is held in one round. Most striking fact? Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is not on it, meaning that for the first time the DRC will see a transfer of presidential power through an election.

Representing the ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) will be former Vice Prime Minister for the Interior Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, current permanent secretary for the PPRD and a close Kabila-ally. The nomination of Shadary put an end to speculations about whether Kabila would find a way to circumvent constitutional term-limits and stand for reelection for a third term [see previous post musing over who would run in the presidential poll here].

Shadary was a founding member of the PPRD and has risen through the ranks of the party: he was Kabila’s campaign chairman in 2006 and 2011; was elected deputy to the National Assembly; served on the Law Committee (PAJ); chaired the PPRD caucus; and was the coordinator for the ruling majority in the National Assembly. During his time as Minister of Interior from 2016 till February of this year, he oversaw a crackdown on protests in the wake of the de facto extension of Kabila’s term by two years. Dozens of protesters were killed and Shadary was placed on the EU sanctions list for violations of human rights.

There is speculation that with the selection of Shadary, Kabila’s intent is to take advantage of the DRC’s semi-presidential constitution to enact a  Putin-Medvedev scenario where, should Shadary become president, Kabila would be appointed prime minister and retain the real levers of power.

On the opposition side, two front runners are left standing: Felix Thisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), son of historical opposition leader Etienne Thisekedi who passed away last year, and former President of the National Assembly Vital Kamerhe of the Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC). Two other opposition heavyweights were excluded: former Kabila-ally Moise Katumbi, who was impeded from returning from exile to register as a candidate; and former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, recently returned from the International Criminal Court (ICC), who was disqualified because of his his conviction for witness tampering at the ICC.    

Fewer opposition candidates should make it easier to unite behind a single candidate and avoid splitting the vote – unless the opposition decides to boycott because of concerns over election administration. These concerns include the use of a controversial electronic voting machine and an incomplete voter register where 16 percent of voters lack fingerprints. Also, human rights abuses by security forces targeting political party activists are rising, according to the UN Mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, as elections approach.

The electoral campaign starting on November 22 is less than two months away. While Kabila has succeeded in establishing a unified coalition, the Common Front for Congo (FCC), backing Shadary, the opposition appears to be waffling still over how to select their candidate. Negotiations have been ongoing among opposition leaders without any formal agreement announced to date. Bemba has declared he is ready to back a consensus candidate, but who will it be and how will he be selected [there are no women among the top presidential contenders]? The opposition leaders have announced a public meeting on September 29, by which time we should know more about their strategy.

The men who will never be King: Cameroon’s October 2018 presidential election

Presidential elections are scheduled in Cameroon for October 7, and barring an unexpected development Paul Biya is on his way to secure another seven-year term and to start his 37thyear in office. This is despite the fact that Cameroon is in a drastically more precarious position than it was last election. Tepid economic growth, an ongoing Boko Haram threat in the north, and a devastating crisis in English-speaking regions have led to sharp declines in human security. The continent also seems to have had its share of presidents for life, as seen most dramatically in the recent departure of Robert Mugabe from the national scene in Zimbabwe. Nonetheless, most predict that Biya will emerge victoriously. The current opposition landscape simply cannot muster enough force, and Biya enjoys enormous advantages as head of state.

The Competition: A Fragmented Field Once Again

As in past elections, the opposition has failed to coalesce into a unified front. Historically, this has been to their detriment. In 1992, during Cameroon’s first multiparty election, Paul Biya won the election with a mere plurality of 40% while the opposition split the vote between five other candidates. In 2004, the National Reconciliation and Renomination Coalition (CRRN) fell apart before the election when John Fru Ndi of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) withdrew his support. During the last presidential election in 2011 no less than 22 candidates were on the ballot.

This cycle the election management body ELECAM has approved nine candidates, including Biya. Three are representative of Cameroon’s nearly 300 “mushroom parties” – former student activist Cabral Libii Ngue of the Universe party, Serge Espoir Matomba of the United People for Social Renewal (PURS), and Pentecostal pastor Ndifor Afanwi Franklin of the Cameroon National Citizen Movement (MCNC). These parties come and go every cycle, and are often framed around the ambitions of individual figures or niche issues. They generally garner less than 1% of the vote, and are mainly opportunities for individuals outside of the establishment to raise their profile and perhaps gain some international financial support. Others believe that they are there to “muddy the waters” and dilute the opposition. It is not cheap to run for president and it requires a financial deposit of 30 million CFA (~$50,000), indicating that these candidates have some means.

Alongside these figures are two household names that are more akin to a symbolic opposition. Adamou Ndam Njoya is a former member of government, and in 1992 founded the opposition Cameroon Democratic Union (UDC). Njoya has been on the national stage for decades and has run for president in every election. But, he now has very little appeal outside of his home area of Bamoun, and even more specifically the Noun Department. He is joined by former minister Garga Haman Adji of the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD). Garga left the ruling party in 1992 and is a frequent critic of government corruption. He ran for president in 2004 and 2011, winning just 3% of the vote.

The main opposition drama is between the remaining three candidates: Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), Akere Muna of the Popular Front for Development (FPD), and Maurice Kamto of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC). Only Osih is a member of a longstanding opposition party. Osih’s nomination signals a generational shift in the SDF away from its chairman and perpetual presidential candidate, John Fru Ndi. Osih is young and Anglophone, but appeals to Cameroon’s French-speaking areas. He has campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption, improved services, and a return to federalism. Moreover, he has relatively deep pockets from his aviation business. His major liability is his young age (49), which has caused some skepticism over whether he has the ability to steer the complex ship of the Cameroonian state.

By contrast, Kamto and Muna are both veteran attorneys with significant international exposure and pedigree. Kamto was Biya’s delegate to the Ministry of Justice between 2004 and 2011 and active in the United Nation’s International Law Commission. But, Kamto and most of the MRC are of the Bamileké ethnic group from West region, which has left him vulnerable to accusations of tribalismAkere Muna is an Anglophone and a former Vice President at the international corruption monitoring organization Transparency International. He is also a scion of one of Cameroon’s most famous families. Akere’s father, Solomon Tandeng Muna, was the Prime Minister of Cameroon and later President of the National Assembly. His brother Bernard is another well-known lawyer and former activist in the SDF. His sister Ama Tutu was Minister of Arts and Culture between 2007 and 2015. Kamto and Muna are also running on campaigns of anti-corruption and have staked out support for federalism.

This creates an opposition field that will undoubtedly split the vote more than it needs to be. No candidate has excluded the possibility of a coalition, and each has made statements that a single presidential candidate would be the most beneficial. But as in past attempts there is no consensus over who would lead such a coalition. In 2004, opposition contenders agreed that a commission should choose the most appropriate presidential candidate based on a point system. However, that system broke down after Ndam Njoya was chosen by that very system. Moreover, a united opposition still does not have sufficient numbers to topple Biya. This means that some candidates might not be thinking just about 2018, but also about the next election in 2025 when Biya will be 92 years old and will more likely step down from power.

The Incumbent: The Advantages of State

 Paul Biya enters this electoral contest with immense advantages built up over decades in power. First, it is important to recall that Biya’s candidacy is the result of a 2008 constitutional amendment that removed term limits. That maneuver was meant to defer on question regarding Biya’s succession, which risked creating irreparable rifts within the ruling party. As president, Biya has held together a tenuous multiethnic coalition based on patronage. Biya distributes cabinet portfolios, civil service positions, and development resources in implicit exchange for political support. This distribution has created winners and losers, and is seen as particularly beneficial to Biya’s Southern co-ethnics, the Beti. Change in leadership would signal a change in distribution that would undermine the existing order. Biya’s candidacy is basically a continuation of the status quo.

Biya has already maintained the support of various elites. A group of 20 opposition parties that call themselves the G20 have backed Biya. The G20 have stated that their support is for the sake of national security, but also that they see the chances of Biya losing as miniscule. Therefore, staying loyal to the president improves their standing and chances of obtaining benefits after the election. Importantly, the bulk of northern elites, who were at some point a significant opposition front, are also behind Biya. For instance, Cameroon’s Minister of Communication Issa Tchiroma is not from the ruling party but has been a frequent spokesman for the regime during the crisis in Anglophone areas. Likewise, Bello Bouba Maigari was once a serious presidential contender, but is now content as Minister of Tourism.

Alongside this system of patronage, Biya has access to significant resources of the state and enjoys significant presidential powers. Earlier this year he had parliament pass a bill that deferred the legislative elections due to the logistical cost of operating multiple elections within the challenging security context. During past elections, it was common for teachers, local administrators, and state-recognized traditional chiefs to campaign for the ruling party. The ruling party uses state-owned resources like vehicles and stadiums during elections, and state-owned media is heavily tilted toward the president. Indeed, in 2004 and 2011 Biya barely campaigned, and spent much of his time abroad.

There are also concerns over whether the election itself will be free and fair. A limited number of international observers regularly arrive in Cameroon, and there is a very small domestic observation capacity. The creation of ELECAM in 2008 has improved the management of elections in Cameroon, and incidents of outright fraud have declined since 1992. But, the president appoints members of ELECAM and appointed governors are responsible for many election related activities. For example, governors issue permits for gatherings and rallies, and can declare states of emergency that limit freedom of movement. In the past, opposition actors have frequently been detained over so-called violations of various statutes regarding political organization.

Most importantly, the Boko Haram situation and crisis in English-speaking region has led to significant issues with election preparation. Hundreds of thousands of Cameroonians are displaced, and ongoing violence might keep many away from the polls. There are reportedly significant issues with voter registration, and it is not clear how many polling stations will actually be open and accessible in English-speaking areas. The SDF has already rejected a government proposal to move polling stations into military barracks. These issues impact opposition areas particularly hard. While opposition figures like Osih or Muna are likely to win large swaths of the English-speaking regions, the total number of votes might very well be much lower than in previous elections.

The fragmented opposition and Biya’s powerful hand combine to create a sense of apathy among many voters. While many are galvanized given the dire economic and political conditions, others only see more of the same.

Uganda – Museveni in a Muddle

This year, President Yoweri Museveni has been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Three developments in particular have undermined his legitimacy both at home and abroad. First, he orchestrated the removal of president age-limits (having previously done away with term-limits) so that he can stand for election for a sixth time in 2021. Second, his government’s horrendous abuse of opposition (or more accurately independent) leader Bobi Wine, most notably his torture while in detention, led to widespread condemnation. Third, Museveni’s threat that he can “do away with parliament” may have intimidated some of his legislative opponents, but it has also called into question the legitimacy of his regime. Taken together, these developments suggest that the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government finds itself in a particularly difficult moment – and faces pressures that are likely to get worse before they get better.

Let us start with the government’s reaction to the challenge posed by the musician turned politician Bobi Wine. The heavy handed state response suggests that there is a growing recognition within the NRM that the president’s efforts to prolongue his stay in power are not without costs. By forcing through a removal of constitutional age limits – despite fist fights in parliament, violent protests outside, and a population that supports presidential term-limits – Museveni has made it clear that he both intends to rule until his dying breath and is becoming increasingly insensitive to popular sentiment.

This is a dangerous strategy in at least two ways. First, it signals to other leaders within the NRM that their own presidential ambitions will come to naught until Museveni leaves the political scene – which gives them little reason to wish him good health. At the same time, it has made the president look increasingly out of touch with popular opinion – a risky move in an era in which even old school nationalist leaders such as Robert Mugabe have fallen by the wayside.

The Bobi Wine controversy must be understood against this backdrop. In another year, in a different context, the government might have responded to Wine’s (successful) efforts to help another independent candidate to win a parliamentary by-election in the Arua municipality with a more subtle strategy. But in this particular political moment, Wine represented a more significant threat to the NRM’s authority than usual, and so triggered a more brutal response. As a “youth leader” of 36, Wine is less than half Museveni’s age. Consequently, his campaign has thrown the president’s gerontocracy into sharp relief. At the same time, Wine’s popularity in urban areas stands as a powerful reminder that Museveni’s rule is premised on his control of the rural vote. Over the last decade, the opposition has steadily gained control of towns and cities.  Shorn of the ability to use traditional leaders, patronage and coercion to mobilise support, the NRM typically loses out to Kizza Besigye’s Forum for Democratic Change. Put simply, if Uganda was an urban country, Museveni would have lost power some time ago.

While the government’s unacceptable treatment of Wine led him to flee the country – he is now in the United States recovering from his injuries – it has not undermined his influence. Indeed, if anything it has turned a local politician with limited resources and resonance into an internationally known martyr for the opposition cause. As a result, someone that was previously thought of as an independent member of parliament is now being talked about as a potential future presidential candidate.

If the government’s response to Bobi Wine is likely to generate unintended and unwelcome consequences, what of Museveni’s threat to do away with parliament? The first thing to note in this regard is that, as with his response to Wine’s growing popularity, Museveni’s statement is an indication of his mounting frustration – in this case at the number of MPs within the legislature that have called into question government policy over recent months – rather than a symbol of his authority. The second is that the president is unlikely to follow through with his threat. There are three main reasons for this:

  • First, as Michaela Collord has pointed out, Museveni has made similar statements before and they are usually part of a strategy of brinkmanship – to date, the president has yet to follow through on such a threat. Thus, as Nicole Beardsworth has suggested, it is unlikely to happen.
  • Second, as Sam Wilkins has argued, the NRM regime relies on the hard work and political mobilization of Members of Parliament, who provide a crucial link to the grass roots. Shutting the legislature would be counterproductive, “alienating hundreds of people on whom he [Museveni] relies”.
  • Third, shutting the legislature would undermine the myth that Uganda is a democratic regime. In addition to highlighting the authoritarian foundations of the NRM government, it would make it almost impossible for the country’s international partners – who have done their best to overlook Museveni’s failings thus far – to continue providing financial support.

All told, these points suggest that Museveni’s situation is more constrained than it first appears. The threat of an authoritarian crackdown may well force the NRM’s critics on to the back foot, but the president cannot actually follow through with all of his threats without simultaneously undermining the platform on which the legitimacy of his regime depends.

Significantly, leaders who come to rely on making empty threats suffer from a fundamental weakness, namely that they become ever more vulnerable to someone calling their bluff. As Micheal Mutyaba has argued, the conditions now exist both for greater opposition to Museveni’s rule to emerge, and for the president to adopt increasingly authoritarian strategies to maintain political control. The likely consequence of these two tends is growing contestation and a new era of political confrontation. Such a development would be particularly dangerous for Museveni, because it would undermine his claim to be able to deliver peace and order – a claim that has undermined the NRM’s legitimacy ever since it took power in 1986.

Back then, the critical reference point for domestic and international audiences was the incompetent and unstable regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote. Thirty years on, Ugandans are starting to ask for more, and the NRM is struggling to deliver.

 

Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy at the University of Birmingham and the founder of www.democracyinafrica.org

Signing of peace agreement is just the start for South Sudan’s broken politics

The signing of a power-sharing agreement between sworn enemies in South Sudan should be a cause for celebration. President Salva Kiir’s tentative deal with his former Vice-President Riek Machar in Khartoum in August is one of the most hopeful things to have happened in the last two years, given the worsening political and humanitarian crises. But it is far from being a solution in itself. The continued mistrust, and the shallowness of the peace process, are in fact real causes for concern.

The situation is remarkable in many ways. Not least is the impact which these leaders’ hostility has had on their fragile country: a third of the population (more than four million people) have been displaced by fighting since 2013, and an estimated seven million people have been affected by food insecurity – some of them severely. The wounds are deep, since these leaders effectively represent the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan, the Dinka and the Nuer. Politics has become even more polarised along ethnic lines, as have its military forces. There are widespread and well-documented reports of ethnic cleansing, rape, and worse, on the basis of ethnicity. The state forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) is increasingly regarded as pursuing the interests of the Dinka group, while Machar’s SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition) is largely a Nuer force.

The two forces fought each other openly in the capital, Juba, in July 2016 as Machar was forced to flee not just government but the country. He ended up in South Africa where he spent more than a year under effective house arrest, while regional powers sought to restore some kind of calm. So his return to government – as agreed on paper at least – seems like even more of an achievement.

The real concern is that the peace agreement has only been initialled under duress from regional powers – President Kiir was strongly opposed to Machar’s release and any role for him in a future government – rather than having some kind of basis in changing relationships. The negotiations have focussed on issues which look more like a carve up of state resources for the elites involved. The number of vice-presidents is being increased to five (with Machar due to return as First Vice-President). Parliament has been increased to 550 members, with the additional seats divided out under the agreement rather than through any kind of election. Even the government itself has ballooned to 45 ministers (again divided out by faction, with most going to the two largest groups). While the country suffers from one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet, patronage and state capture have taken priority.

From new state to failed state

South Sudan is still celebrated as one of the newest states, having become independent in July 2011. (Independence day celebrations were cancelled this year for the third year running due to lack of state funds.) It achieved its sovereignty after decades of war with northern Sudan, which cost millions of lives. The peace process went remarkably smoothly, with a referendum overwhelmingly endorsing the creation of a new state. Analysts who expected Sudan to somehow overturn the process were proven wrong, even though it meant the breakaway nation leaving with nearly all the oil fields which had started to boost the Sudanese economy. There was considerable international support for the SPLA’s difficult transition from guerrilla movement to proto-state. But the ethnic tensions (exploited by Khartoum during the war) and weak, corrupt, or non-existent institutions were always going to be a huge challenge.

Just over two years after independence, the power-sharing government which ushered in the new state fell apart amid mistrust and rivalry between the two leaders in December 2013. Civilians quickly fled as the ethnic nature of the violence became clear almost immediately. Regional powers brokered an unstable deal – not a good precedent for the current agreement – which allowed Machar to return to the capital. But within months the violence broke out again, in the July 2016 clashes during which he was forced to flee.

Consequences of war

The consequences for South Sudan have been dire – and this was a country already deeply impoverished by neglect and war even before it achieved its independence. Food production has been affected by millions of people fleeing their homes, and insecurity preventing the movement of goods. Famine was declared in parts Unity State in February 2017, exactly as predicted, and only a massive international aid effort prevented deaths on an enormous scale. This year has been worse in ways: the World Food Program (WFP) warned of “alarming” levels of food insecurity  with some communities again just “a step away from famine”. Nearly two-thirds of the population (7.1 million people) were facing severe food insecurity by the end of July. The WFP assisted 2.6 million people in May this year alone.

The link between conflict and hunger in South Sudan has been well documented. It is worsened by continued fighting preventing access by humanitarian organisations. South Sudan has been listed as the most dangerous place for aid workers to operate: 28 were killed last year, bringing the total to more than 100 since 2013.

In terms of displacement, 2.47 million are now refugees in neighbouring countries, with more than a million in Uganda. A total of 1.76 million are internally displaced, with about 200,000 seeking shelter at Protection of Civilians sites in or beside UN bases across the country. The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has faced a difficult task in trying implement its complex and multi-dimensional mandate to protect civilians (amongst other things), given the hostile attitude of the government. At the UN Security Council, an arms embargo was finally imposed in July through Resolution 2428, which had failed to get enough votes to pass at its last outing in the final days of the Obama administration. The government meanwhile extended President Kiir’s term of office to 2021 with little fuss in July.

Human rights abuses, sexual violence, and the killing of civilians has continued to deepen enmities and erode trust, even as elites talked “peace” in neighbouring capitals. A report by UNMISS and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented atrocities in detail in April, in which the SPLA was implicated among others.

First steps in a peace process?

So, an actual peace process was never more needed. The main sponsor has been the regional body of states (including South Sudan itself) known as IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development). It brokered a cessation of hostilities in December (which is frequently ignored) and effectively gave permission for the release of Riek Machar from house arrest in South Africa in late March (something strongly opposed by President Kiir). Talks principally involving the two groups, along with other less powerful factions, took place in the neighbouring capitals of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Sudan. The agreement was initialled in August by most parties in Khartoum, followed by further renegotiations there with a further deal being initialled at on 30th August. Talks on the implementation matrix continued in Khartoum.

But even if the agreement can be implemented – including the tricky questions of power-sharing and reintegration of Riek Machar’s forces into a national army – the problems are far from over. The deal represents a share-out of jobs and resources for those with leverage, rather than a peace process. There are of course many voices of courage in South Sudan, with the vision, humanity, and solidarity to build a future based on co-existence, despite the very hostile environment for civil society organisations. A deal which involves elites and armed elements seeking to advance their interests is not a peace process which can heal the alarming ethnic polarisation of national politics and everyday life in South Sudan. The importance of a process like this is well understood, but the country is a long way from seeing the leadership which would allow this kind of dialogue to emerge.

 

Suggested Reading:

Arensen, Michael J, 2016, If We Leave We Are Killed: Lessons Learned from South Sudan Protection of Civilian Sites 2013–2016, International Organization for Migration, South Sudan.

Christian Aid, 2018, In It for the Long Haul? Lessons on Peacebuilding in South Sudan, London and Juba: Christian Aid

Concern Worldwide, 2018, Conflict and Hunger: The Lived Experience of Conflict and Food Insecurity in South Sudan

Jok Madut Jok, 2017, Breaking Sudan: The Search for Peace, Oneworld Publications.

Center for Civilians in Conflict, 2016, Under Fire: The July 2016 Violence in Juba and UN Response, Washington DC: Center for Civilians in Conflict.

United Nations, 2018, Letter dated 12 April 2018 from the Panel of Experts on South Sudan addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2018/292

 

Analysis of the Mali presidential election process and outcome

This is a guest post by Grant Godfrey, Senior Program Manager, National Democratic Institute (NDI)

Unsuccessful Malian presidential contender Soumaïla Cissé’s claims of fraud have gained little traction, and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta’s re-election in the August 12 runoff has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court. Yet hopes that the presidential election would reinvigorate the Algiers peace process may remain unfulfilled; a declining level of citizen engagement leaves the country’s institutions and leaders arguably weaker than in 2013.

Participation[1] fell 6.28 points this year from the record voter turnout of 48.98% in the first round poll of 2013. Runoff participation plummeted over 11 points to 34.42%, the lowest rate in a presidential race since 2002. Despite rapid growth in the voting population—17 percent more registered voters, over 1.1 million more individuals—372,283 fewer Malians bothered to cast a runoff vote in 2018. Explanations for this could include an overall weakening of support for the candidates, dissatisfaction with facing the same choice as in the 2013 runoff, and/or a skepticism as to whether the election would bring any real change to voters’ lives.

The election returns tell a similar story.  With 67.12 %, Keïta won more than two votes for every one for Cissé in the runoff. This is a large and convincing margin, but it may mask citizens’ deeper concerns for their country.  The 34-point victory is still the second-narrowest in a presidential runoff in Mali—only Cissé’s loss to Amadou Toumani Touré in 2002 was closer. Cissé improved upon his 2013 performance by over 10 percentage points, winning nearly 200,000 more votes. He has clearly gained ground with the public.  Keïta, on the other hand, won a second term despite inspiring fewer actual votes than he did five years ago. Runoff votes for Keïta dropped by 562,767. Put another way, for every vote he won in August 2013, almost one-quarter did not support him again this year. This does not place the president in an ideal position to push through controversial measures such as the reforms called for by the Algiers Accord.  Keïta accepted the importance of working with his opponents, soliciting their support in his victory speech. Cissé, however, has continued to contest the final results.

A declining level of voter participation could also reflect a lack of confidence in the electoral process and institutions. For a number of election cycles, both domestic and international observers have recommended reforms that would inspire greater voter confidence in the process, and which have not been pursued.  Some recurring examples include better defining roles and procedures for registering voters and delivering voter cards; considering the creation of a permanent and independent election management body; more transparency in results management, both at the polling station and at the Constitutional Court; and publicizing the CENI’s[2] findings.  Many of the challenges that gave rise to these past recommendations recurred this year.

One positive development in civic engagement in these past elections was the role played by Malian election monitoring groups. These deployed thousands of observers, who monitored all phases of the process. While noting many reassuring points, these groups also illuminated some problems that could undermine public confidence in elections. The Malian observer group Coalition for Citizen Observation of Elections in Mali (COCEM) noted that residents of the central region (where Cissé enjoys significant support) had a more difficult time obtaining their voter cards, generally for reasons attributed to insecurity. COCEM also observed unlawful distribution of “batches” of voter cards in five out of 15 regions (the law allows a maximum of two proxy card withdrawals per person).  On election day, COCEM and others documented areas where voting was cancelled, despite an improved security presence.

COCEM also conducted an analysis of the polling-station-by-polling-station results for each round.  COCEM found that in 393 polling stations (out of 22,675) all the votes went to a single candidate. Among these polling stations, 297 had more than 50 voters, and 112 also had 100 percent turnout.[3]  It may not be surprising that in some Malian communities, everyone votes for one candidate. The 100 percent turnout is arguably more surprising, particularly in an election with low turnout.  In the 297 polling stations with unanimous voting and more than 50 voters, the average turnout was 86 percent; 254 of these polling stations were in areas prone to insecurity—Timbuktu, Gao and Mopti; and 127 alone were in the Timbuktu region, from which a number of Cissé’s complaints to the Constitutional Court emanated. It is important to state that these facts do not prove Soumaïla Cissé’s claim of massive ballot-box stuffing—in 44 polling stations with more than 50 voters, Cissé received all the votes.  Had such fraud taken place, however, these are the types of results (high turnout, mostly for one candidate) it would produce.

The number of votes at issue would not have affected the outcome,[4] but the complaint filed by the opposition provided the Constitutional Court an opportunity to build confidence in the post-election process.  Cissé requested the court produce and examine, for example, the voter sign-in sheet (which could be probative if box-stuffing indeed occurred) for a number of locations alleged to suffer security or other problems, some of which COCEM’s analysis shows voted unanimously. Instead of considering the question of when a combination of insecurity and skewed results warrants closer scrutiny, the court required Cissé to produce a copy of the tally sheet showing that a complaint was made at the polling station by a party representative; however, in 2013 the EU observation mission noted that party agents only received copies of the final count, not of their complaints. If that is still the practice, it would make proof of misdeeds nearly impossible, according to the court’s current jurisprudence. Where Cissé also offered witness testimony, it was not considered sufficient. The court appears to consider the CENI’s reports dispositive; indeed, it is not clear that the court would consider any evidence favorably absent corroboration by the CENI observer. However, without divulging the CENI’s and court delegates’ observations, it is difficult for the public to assess the sincerity of the court’s judgment.

The court’s approach to its decision will thus likely fuel more opposition criticism of the post-election process. Critics could also question the court’s position on transparency measures that were taken in 2018. The court begins its opinion with an aside in which it asserts that requests by national and international observers for access to the center where results are compiled, and for on-line publication of results by polling station, lack a legal basis.  The court reasons that since the law does not affirmatively require these measures, they should not have been taken, and compromise Malian sovereignty. The court ignored Article 11 of the constitution, which states that “Anything not prohibited by law shall not be prevented….” The court’s language was unnecessary to the resolution of the case, the purpose of including it is unclear, and the statements should give Malian democracy advocates cause for concern. The net effect of this resistance to open election data practices could well be to reinforce citizen skepticism and further alienating voters.

[1] Figures for 2013 and 2018 are taken from Constitutional Court decisions. For previous elections, see http://africanelections.tripod.com/ml.html.

[2] The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) “supervises” election operations organized by the Ministry of Territorial Administration. CENI is run by a board representing the majority, opposition and civil society. It sends observers to every polling station and provides a report to the President. Its report is supposed to be published in the Official Journal (Electoral Law, Arts 3, 4, 17).

[3] Twenty-one voting stations had 100 percent turnout and voted unanimously in both rounds.

[4] The number of votes cast in unanimous polling stations nationwide totaled 57,449, while Keïta’s victory margin was over 900,000.

 

Edalina Rodrigues Sanches – Cabo Verde: Political leadership in the most exceptional democracy in Africa

This is a guest post by Edalina Rodrigues Sanches: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa.

2018 marks the 43rd anniversary of Cabo Verde independence and 27 years of an exceptional democracy  with a tradition of  free and fair elections as well as peaceful transitions in power.  While historical and geographic factorsmay have facilitated these developments, political institutions such as executive systems, and political leadership have also played an important role.

A stable two-party system

Since the founding multiparty elections of January 1991, Cabo Verde has developed a balanced and stable two-party system in which the  PAICVand the MPDare the major parties. The PAICV is the older party in the system, and a forerunner of the PAIGCwhich was formed in 1956 during the liberation struggle against Portuguese colonial rule. It was the sole legal party during the authoritarian regime that spanned between 1975 and 1990; and it continued to play and important role in the post-transition era.  After losing parliamentary elections in 1991 and 1995, the PAICV won subsequent elections (2001, 2006, 2011) with broad parliamentary support (more than 50% of the seats).  The MPD, the second party to become legal in the country, was formed in 1990 during the critical juncture of democratic transition. It unexpectedly won the founding multiparty elections in 1991 and repeated the win in 1995 and more recently in 2016[1]. In all these polls the MPD managed to secure more than 50% of the potential seats.

Leadership successions within these two parties have been relatively peaceful. In the PAICV, there have been three transfers of power since 1991. In 1993, Aristides Lima replaced Pedro Pires as the new secretary-general and stood as prime-ministerial candidate at the 1995 elections but eventually lost. In 2000, José Maria Neves was elected new party leader, a position he held for 14 out of the 15 years he acted as the country’s prime-minister (2001-2016). This was a period of strong external projection of the country; but, internally, the government faced important challenges namely economic slowdown, rising unemployment, and higher levels of social contestation, particularly between 2008-2015.  In 2014, José Maria Neves announced he was not going to run for the party presidency. This happened before the end of his mandate as Prime Minister and paved the way for the election of a new leader that would also run as prime-ministerial candidate in the 2016 polls. Janira Hopffer Almada was elected the new leader in the highly disputed party primaries of 2014 and became the first female to be elected party leader and to run for prime minister. The party never came together to support her leadership and she eventually lost the 2016 elections but saw her legitimacy as leader sanctioned in the 2017 primaries.

In the MPD, leadership successions have been more difficult. Carlos Veiga’s leadership was marked by economic recovery and good governance but conflicts within the party led to the first scission in 1993 and to the formation of Partido da Convergência Democrático (PCD). In 2000, he decided to step down as both Prime Minister and party leader, and to run as presidential candidate. But in-fighting persisted and led to a new offshoot in 2001 – Partido da Renovação Democrática(PRD). This crisis set Jacinto Santos, the then President of the Praia municipality and member of the Political Committee of MPD, against Gualberto do Rosário, the then Prime Minister. With the 2000 MPD convention ahead, Jacinto Santos withdrew from the leadership race and went on to form the PRD with other party members. The Convention confirmed the leadership of Gualberto do Rosário who was succeeded by Agostinho Lopes (2002-2007), Jorge Santos (2007-2013) and most recently Ulisses Correia e Silva (since 2013), the current Prime Minister.

The key lesson that can be drawn from this is that leadership successions in Cabo Verde – both within the parties and in the executive – have become sufficiently institutionalized, and help maintain regime stability.

Symmetric and stable relations between the president and the prime minister

Cabo Verde has been a semi-presidential regime from the outset of democratic transition. The amendment to the 1990 constitution in 1992 reduced presidential powers to dissolve parliament and dismiss the cabinet, and strengthened the legislative initiative  of the executive[2]. Eight years later, a new revision defined that presidential and legislative elections should no longer be almost concurrent (only one month between them) but were now to be held with a six-monthlag.

When compared to other former Lusophone countries, the Cabo Verdean president is theweakest in terms of formal powers, but his role has never been irrelevant[3]. The overall relationship between the president and the prime minister has been balanced and symmetric whoever is in leadership. One contributing factor is that the rounds of parliamentary and presidential elections held since 1991 have produced successive episodes of unified government in which the same party has the majority in the parliament and in the presidency[4]. The only episode of cohabitation was in 2011 when the PAICV had the majority in parliament and the MPD was able to elect its presidential candidate. Power sharing between Prime Minister José Maria Neves and the elected President, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, generatedpolitical tensions and conflictsover the appointment of state officials and foreign policy issues. Despite this, these two strong charismatic leaders maintained an amicable relationship throughout the period of cohabitation.

Since 2016, “normality” has returned as there is again a situation of unified government. In his second mandate, Jorge Carlos Fonseca has already stated the need for a constitutional revisionthat reinforces democratic institutions as well as social justice.  Following some problems related to the performance of some ministers and the coordination between the different portfolios,Prime Minister Ulisses Correia eventually reshuffled the cabinet.  But in a context of balanced intra-executive relationships, there are signs of increasing contestation from civil society. This year the celebration of Cabo Verde’s independence on July 5 was marked by several protestsin the main Islands and the same happened last year. This time, citizens’ complaints included a broad range of  issues from  unemployment, to regionalisation  and to the Status of Forces Agreement(SOFA)with the United States. With further impending strikes and protests, it remains uncertain how the new political leadership will address social contestation.  So far, the Prime Minister has refused to take responsibilityfor the complaints made, although the rights of individuals to protest  is generally acknowledged.

Notes

[1]Sanches, E.R. 2018. Party Systems in Young Democracies: Varieties of institutionalization in Sub-Saharan Africa. London and New York: Routledge.

[2]Évora, R. 2013. Cabo Verde: Democracia e sistema de governo, in Costa, S. & Sarmento, C. (orgs). Entre África e a Europa: Nação, Estado e Democracia em Cabo Verde. Coimbra: Almedina

[3]Costa, Daniel. 2009. O Papel do Chefe de Estado no Semipresidencialismo Cabo-verdiano, 1991–2007, in Lobo, M.C., & Neto, O. A. (orgs). O Semi-Presidencialismo nos Países de Língua Portuguesa, Lisbon: ICS.

[4]MPD’s cabinets were supported by President António Mascarenhas Monteiro (two mandates 1991-2001) while PAICV’s were supported by President Pedro Pires (two mandates 2001-2011).

Uganda – President Museveni and the politics of quick-fix taxation

At the end of May, Uganda’s Parliament passed the equivalent of a political bombshell. The Excise Duty Amendment Act (2018), to which the President quickly assented, introduced a range of new tax measures, including a one percent duty on mobile money transactions and a daily Ush200 ($0.05) “Over the Top” tax on the use of social media. The popular reaction to these new measures was swift. It started with an explosion of online criticism—on Uganda’s vibrant social media, no less—before taking physical form in the streets.

The vehemence of this response, and the government’s subsequent scramble to “clarify” its position, begs the question, why did President Museveni back such a predictably controversial tax reform? And how do we account for the influence—as well as the apparent limitations—of the subsequent pushback?

The political benefits of balancing the books… by taxing the poor

Uganda has an urgent need to generate more revenue. It lags its East African neighbours, collecting taxes equivalent to only 14 of GDP relative to Kenya’s 18 percent and Rwanda’s 16. At the same time, expenditure continues to outstrip revenue generation, driving the government to borrow more. Although sustainable for now, Uganda’s debts are rapidly accumulating while its interest rate payments to local and external creditors are expected to exceed 12 percent of the total budget this financial year.

The social media and mobile money taxes have the advantage of being relatively easy to administer, and government initially estimated that they would generate revenue worth Ush284bn ($75.9m) and Us115bn ($30.7m) respectively over the coming year, contributing to a budget pegged at Shs32.7tr ($8.7bn). President Museveni has also repeatedly derided social media, declaring that the new taxes could help reduce “gossip”.

Yet aside these benefits, real or imagined, the two new taxes come with clear downsides. First, government critics stress that these taxes are sharply regressive, hitting the poor hardest. The tax on social media use specifically has the further potential to limit access to information. Meanwhile, the tax on mobile money will likely reduce financial inclusion. It is recorded that 23.6m Ugandans use mobile money services—sending and receiving money via their phones—and that 61 percent of these transactions are below Ush45,000 ($12). There is also the very real risk that the mobile money tax will prove self-defeating, reducing the volume of transactions and harming growth—not to mention exacerbating existing inequalities.

There are notable alternatives to the two controversial taxes, which the Ugandan Government could consider. For instance, in its most recent “Uganda Economic Update”, the World Bank details a range of options for raising domestic revenues, recommending in particular a reduction in tax exemptions, estimated to equal between 4.5 and 5 percent of GDP in 2016/17. These exemptions are generally awarded to larger businesses and foreign investors, further accentuating the overall regressive nature of Uganda’s tax regime.

Another related concern is the nature of government expenditure. Excessive spending—notably on Defence, the Office of the President and other non-developmental areas—adds to the overall strain on the budget, and thus to the need for additional revenue. It has not helped that the controversy over the new tax measures coincided with Museveni’s promise that individual MPs will be guarded by military snipers and provided with escort cars to ensure their security. If implemented, this plan would quickly cancel out any contribution the social media and mobile money taxes could make towards balancing the budget.

So why is it that the government insists on widely unpopular, regressive taxes instead of ensuring a more efficient and equitable tax regime? The official justification for exemptions—one that until recently the IFIs themselves endorsed—is that they encourage investment, which then bolsters growth. But analysts of Uganda’s political economy have long stressed the additional, political imperative prompting Museveni’s government to adopt a more discretionary tax policy. Indeed, exemptions are a form of political favour granted to leading economic actors, who then reciprocate through their political loyalty and financial backing of the regime. Similarly, excessive spending on certain, seemingly non-priority sectors is another way for President Museveni to distribute patronage, including to ensure the support of ruling party MPs.

Even with these seemingly skewed political incentives, though, Museveni does have to worry about the broader legitimacy of his government. And following the widespread condemnation of the recent tax reforms, the President blinked. His response suggests the potential influence—but also the limitations—of popular pressure on government decision-making.

The popular backlash, and its significance

Opposition to the social media and mobile money taxes has united a broad coalition, if one most visible around Kampala. Activists, journalists, politicians, comedians, musicians and other social media users took to Twitter with a variety of hastags: #ThisTaxMustGo, #Mobilemoneytax, #SocialMediaTax. This helped kindle the debate surrounding the new measures, which played out across Uganda’s print and broadcast media. It also helped mobilise support for a march through Kampala, called by the fast-rising musician-turned-opposition leader, Bobi Wine. But while a widely known broadcast journalist linked arms with Bobi Wine to protest, the demonstration also drew in large crowds of market vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers, who faced off against armed riot police.

Following the protest, and with a court case pending and an online petition quickly gaining signatures, Museveni changed his tune. Seemingly making up policy on the hoof, he claimed that the one percent tax rate on mobile money “came up by mistake” and that he “signed the law with the error because we could not delay the other measures.” While Museveni refused to change the social media tax nor to scrap the tax on mobile money, he did indicate that the latter would be reduced from one to 0.5 percent.

The government went on to table an amended Excise Duty Bill on 19 July, less than two months after the first was enacted. Activists have vowed to push for further concessions as the legislation moves through parliament. Meanwhile, the Leader of the Opposition, Winnie Kiiza, called for more popular protest against the disputed taxes, noting that without this outside pressure the parliamentary opposition alone was helpless.

Popular protest is not the only factor underlying the government’s partial climb-down. It appears the Cabinet was divided about the mobile money tax rate to begin with, and that government initially underestimated the revenue they could generate through the tax. Yet it is striking that Museveni only mentioned the 0.5 percent rate after the Kampala protests, and with the prospect of further protests looming. This timing, when considered alongside the government’s contradictory and rapidly evolving official position, leaves little doubt that popular protest has prompted the concessions to date, whatever the government may claim to the contrary.

It remains to be seen, though, whether activists can successfully pressure parliament to further amend the new Excise Duty Bill. For that, they will have to win over a large portion of ruling party MPs of whom only a handful have come out openly against the controversial taxes. That said, MPs have also been loath to voice their support for the measures, preferring instead quietly to vote in favour or else de facto to abstain through their absence from the House. Speaker Kadaga, meanwhile, entrusted her Deputy to oversee the vote when the Excise Duty Bill was first passed in May. She tends to delegate in this way when there is controversial and generally unsavoury business to handle.

Although the NRM parliamentary caucus continues to back the President, it may still be possible for popular pressure to open up divisions within the ruling party and, by leveraging those divisions, to win further concessions through parliament. This has happened in the past, notably regarding controversies over health and education spending as well as previous unpopular tax proposals. Such a positive outcome may seem unlikely in this instance, but the previous successes—however partial—show that there is still space to push for more progressive outcomes, even in the context of Museveni’s increasingly authoritarian regime.