Tag Archives: civil-military relations

Zimbabwe – More than 100 days into the new administration, little has changed

 

It has been 123 days since Zimbabweans went to the polls, in an election that was intended to usher in a new era for the troubled Southern African nation. But the fatal shooting of seven civilians by soldiers in the full view of the global media was an important reminder that the new administration looked much like the old. Although he positioned himself as a reformer, little appears to have changed in Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa came in on a wave of popular support after he and his military backers ousted former President Robert Mugabe in a coup that broke the continent’s longest coup-free stretch since the late 1950s. He promised accountable governance, a return to the rule of law and a tough stance on the pervasive corruption that has eaten through Zimbabwe’s social services like a cancer.

Following his election Mnangagwa appointed respected Cambridge-educated economist Dr Mthuli Ncube as his Finance Minister, sending positive signals to international investors and the IMF and World Bank that the country planned to turn over a new economic leaf. He also appointed a commission of enquiry into the killings on 1 August, headed by the respected former president of South Africa, Kgalema Motlanthe.

But the Military…

As if to confirm the fears of political scientists about the adverse outcomes of coups, the military has continued to play an outsized role in Zimbabwe’s post-coup dispensation. Rumours abound of the factional fights between the president and his Vice-President Constantine Chiwenga, the former Commander of the Defence Forces. It is widely reported that the deal between the two men was that Mnangagwa would serve just a single term before handing over to his second in command.

But repeated statements suggest that Mnangagwa has other ideas and hopes to run again in 2023. This was reportedly the reason behind the grenade attack at one of Mnangagwa’s rallies during the election campaign. The country’s independent media carries regular articles detailing the alleged factional fights within the state which continue to give lie to Mnangagwa’s ‘new dawn’ narrative.

At the same time, Chiwenga and Foreign Minister and former Lieutenant-General Sibusiso Moyo (of the Chiwenga camp) are reportedly gravely ill, with Moyo apparently suffering from unexplained kidney failure. In a country where many leaders have died under unclear or suspicious circumstances – notably Mugabe’s former General, Solomon Mujuru, in 2011 – the illnesses amongst those said to be opposed to the President further raise suspicions.

As for Kgalema Motlanthe’s Commission, the military has bizarrely claimed that the deaths of civilians were caused by the opposition to destabilise and discredit the army and administration. Having refused to take any responsibility for civilian deaths, it appears that impunity will continue to plague the country’s armed forces. Zimbabwe’s civic groups have expressed grave concerns over the process, and confidence in the Commission appears to be waning rapidly.

What about the Economy?

Despite promises of massive international investment during the election campaign and the appointment of a technocratic Finance Minister, Zimbabwe’s economic woes appear to be deepening. Ncube has promised both austerity and wide-ranging reforms, vowing to cut down the country’s public sector wage bill which consumes 90% of the annual budget. In trying to restart the economy, he will need to bring the opaque extractives sector back under the wing of treasury and ensure that the burgeoning diamond and platinum sector remit finances to the state.

But in doing so, the Finance Minister will find himself up against entrenched interests in the military and the upper echelons of the governing party. Vowing to root out ghost workers in the public sector through biometric registration, Ncube will find himself up against the ZANU-PF elites who draw the salaries from these ghost workers in order to finance their own patronage networks. These reforms will also retire more than 6 000 ‘Youth Officers’ on the public payroll, who behave as little more than ruling party enforcers. This will certainly ruffle some feathers with their handlers.

The Minister faces a massive debt mountain; at the end of August 2018, public debt stood at $17.69 billion USD of which domestic debt accounted for 54%. This represents a national debt of over 100% of current GDP. But with industrial capacity operating at 20%, a massive trade deficit engendered by the collapse of local manufacturing and opacity in the minerals sector, it isn’t clear where the finances will come from to turn the listing economic ship around.

The country’s most important export earners are minerals (gold, diamonds, platinum and ferrous metals) but these sectors suffer from heavy involvement of the military and military elites and few of the proceeds from exports reach the public purse. Any attempts to introduce greater transparency in minerals and mineral governance is likely to come up against stiff resistance from those who benefit from the status quo.

Finally, Mnangagwa’s flagship project of 2017 was the country’s ‘Command Agriculture’ project which sought to incentivise and push agricultural sector growth to revitalise the ailing economy and return the country to its former status as a major agricultural producer. This project was run by the military and is said to have been lucrative for many government and military insiders. Ncube’s recent declaration of intent to scale down this programme will likely push him further into conflict with the beneficiaries of this scheme.

And the Opposition?

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has continued to loudly contest the legitimacy of Mnangagwa’s government and tries to capitalise on broad public dissatisfaction with the collapsing economy. On 29 November they held a massive march through the streets of the capital to deliver a petition to parliament demanding a new transitional government to address the financial and political crisis.

Although the opposition is a far cry from its strengths of the early 2000s and the country’s formerly indomitable trade unions are a shadow of their former selves, the widespread desperation brought on by 20 years of deepening economic crisis have pushed citizens to the brink. This has won the MDC many inadvertent supporters and poses a threat to the ruling elite.

Mnangagwa the Reformer?

There remains a robust debate in Zimbabwe about whether or not the president is honest about his intentions to reform the state – and many would like to believe that he is indeed trying to rein in the military. Even if he is sincere in his intentions to reform the state, he is facing threats from all sides – the military, the economy and the opposition – and it remains difficult to see how the administration can possibly dig their way out of the current morass.

The events following the July elections have reminded foreign governments and investors of the reasons for their long hesitation over investing in Zimbabwe, and consequently little foreign investment has been forthcoming in the three months since. The instability of the relationship between the military and the executive as well as the entrenched nature of the army in the country’s productive sectors continues to give investors pause.

Sadly, a year since Mugabe’s removal, the country’s battle-weary citizens hardly look any closer to the end of their long suffering.

Ecuador – President Correa Fires Military High Command

Last week, the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, fired all of Ecuador’s military high command for their refusal to pay back to the government money that the army allegedly owes. President Correa announced via Twitter that he had dismissed the army high command after they refused to refund US$41 million to the Ministry of the Environment. The former army high commander, Luis Anibal Garzon, refuted Correa’s claims and argued that the government was depriving the military of much needed funds, which it needed to cover basic pensions.

The dispute stems from the sale of 220 hectares of land in Guayaquil. The land, which was owned by the Instituto de Seguridad Social de las Fuerzas Armadas del Ecuador (ISSFA), the army social security and pension fund, was sold to the government in 2010 and used to create Guayaquil Park. Last July, the Pope, during his visit to Latin America, said mass in this park. At the time, the Ministry of the Environment paid over US$48 million for the land, even though the municipal council had apparently valued the land at only US$7.3 million. The Attorney General conducted an investigation last November, which concluded that the government had drastically overpaid ISSFA. Based on this investigation, the Correa administration then ordered the Ministry of Finance to recoup the US$41 million difference for the Ministry of the Environment.

The high command of the army refused to acquiesce to this request and instead publicly accused Correa of undermining the ability of the army to secure and pay for its pensions.

In response, Correa then dismissed the entire high command for disobedience.

Luis Anibal Garzon, chief of command of the armed forces was replaced by Oswaldo Fabián Zambrano Cueva. The new head of the navy is Angel Isaac Sarzosa Aguirre; the head of the air force, Cesar Abdon Merizalde Pavon; and head of the army, Luis Miguel Angel Castro Ayala.

Some have argued that Correa’s actions are part of a larger populist, even electoral authoritarian strategy, of centralizing power, which has seen him reform the constitution, aggressively tackle political opponents in civil society, and change term limits. [1] In response, groups of protestors took to the streets of Quito chanting “Correa Out.” These protests were marked by counter-protests in support of the Correa administration, where Correa lashed out at right-wing opponents and the media for tarnishing his regime and policies.

Worryingly, this incident does appear to indicate a step up in political polarization among opposition groups and the government. This is a trend that is reflected in other parts of the Andes. Political polarization is a recurrent feature of Bolivian politics, and polarization between the opposition and the government in Venezuela, has severely undermined the political stability of the country.

[1] For example, see the special issue on Latin America’s Authoritarian Drift in the Journal of Democracy (2013, Vol. 24, Issue 3).

Guinea-Bissau – Presidential and Parliamentary elections

In Guinea-Bissau presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 13 April. It has been almost two years since the country last tried to hold elections.  In April 2012, a military coup disrupted the presidential election as it headed to a run-off. Several logistical problems and delays caused the elections to be repeatedly postponed, having initially been scheduled for 24 November 2013 and then 16 March 2014.

This time, no major incidents or problems or incidents were reported and observers certified the presidential and parliamentary elections as ‘peaceful, free, fair and transparent’. The turnout was nearly 90 per cent.

The president is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system to serve a five-year term. The 102 members of parliament are elected from 27 multi-member constituencies to serve four-year terms.

Here are the results of the presidential elections:

Candidate Party[1] Votes %
José Mário Vaz PAIGC 252,269 40.98
Nuno Nabiam Independent 154,784 25.14
Paulo Gomes Independent 60,783 9.87
Abel Incada PRS 43,293 7.03
Iaia Djaló PND 28,068 4.56
Ibraima Sori Djaló PRN 19,209 3.12
Afonso Té PRID 18,398 2.99
Hélder Vaz RGB 8,516 1.38
Domingos Quadé Independent 8,432 1.37
Aregado Mantenque PT 7,105 1.15
Luís Nancassa Independent 6,815 1.11
Jorge Malú Independent 5,946 0.97
Cirilo Oliveira PS-GB 2,036 0.33
Total 615,654 100.00

Source: CNE: http://www.cne-guinebissau.org/resultados.php

The second round of the presidential election is scheduled for 18 May. José Mário Vaz (alias “Jomav”) was finance minister from the PAIGC party until the 2012 coup. He also served as the mayor of the capital, Bissau. Nuno Nabiam is a military-backed[2] bureaucrat who had the support of the late President Kumba Iala. Nabiam broke off from the country’s second largest party, the PRS, to run as an independent candidate. Most members of the armed forces come from the Balanta ethnic group, which makes up about one third of the population. Traditionally, they vote for the PRS.

In the parliamentary election the PAIGC won 55 seats and secured an absolute majority in the 102-member unicameral National Assembly. The second largest party, PRS, won 41 seats, the PCD 2 seats, the PND 1 seat and the UM 1 seat. The PAIGC majority in parliament means the leader of that party’s parliamentary list, Domingos Simões Pereira, will become the next prime minister. Yet, according to the constitution of Guinea-Bissau, it is the president who appoints the prime minister.

Civil vs. military control

The prospect of Vaz being elected president mirrors the 2012 situation where the PAIGC was about to control the presidency and legislature. At the time, the military staged a coup against the PAIGC’s presidential candidate, Carlos Gomes Jr., and appointed a transitional president. Vaz’s political survival will largely depend on his relationship with Guinea-Bissau’s over-powerful military establishment. In the event that the military-backed candidate, Nabiam, wins the presidential elections and the government undertakes steps to reform Guinea-Bissau’s security sector, the president may decide to dismiss the prime minister. Overall, it is unlikely that the military will lose control over civilian authority.

[1] PAIGC (African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde); PRS (Party for Social Renewal); PND (New Democracy Party); PRN (National Reconciliation Party); PRID (Republican Party for Independence and Development); RGB (Guinea-Bissau Resistance); PT (Workers’ Party); PS-GB (Socialist Party of Guinea-Bissau).

[2] Nabiam is close to General António Indjai who is seen by many as the real leader of Guinea-Bissau.