CW 41/2022: New and old leaders
Press Review 7 October 2022 to 14 October 2022

Interim President Mahamat Déby appoints new Prime Minister

Last Monday, General Mahamat Idriss Déby was sworn in as Chad’s interim president. Earlier, the National Dialogue, a coalition of military government, civil society and opposition parties, under a boycott of the main opposition parties and rebel groups, had agreed to extend the transition period to democratic elections, originally set at 18 months, for another 24 months. Mahamat Déby, who had already been guiding the fate of the Central African state as president of the military council for the last year and a half, has thus been able to expand his power: He is responsible for appointing both the prime minister and the cabinet members. As a result, the previous Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacke announced his resignation on Tuesday, whereupon Déby appointed the former opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo as his successor. The 75-year-old was considered the biggest challenger to Déby’s predecessor and father Idriss Déby Itno at the time and ran for president four times against the former long-term ruler. However, after the death of Idriss Déby Itno, who was killed in fighting against the FACT rebel movement in April 2021, Kebzabo supported the takeover of power by the military junta led by the young Déby. He is said to owe his appointment in particular to his good international relations, which are important for Mahamat Déby. Meanwhile, the extension of the transitional phase has met with criticism inside and outside the country, including the decision to allow Déby to stand as a candidate in the next elections. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU), at its last meeting in September, called on the military junta and its members to keep to the transition period, which was originally set at 18 months, and to refrain from running in the next elections. Accordingly, the AU also stayed away from the inauguration of Mahamt Idriss Déby as interim president. With the exception of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, no African head of state attended the ceremony; of the neighbouring countries, only the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and the Central African Republic sent ministers to participate. France and the European Union (EU), for whom Chad under the elder Déby developed into an important ally in the fight against jihadism in the Sahel, sent their ambassadors to the ceremony, unlike the AU. There was no clear criticism from the EU, although it expressed “concern” about the extension of the transition period. Meanwhile, the Forum of National Dialogue and the Military Council were dissolved when the transitional president took office, and Mahamat Déby promised the introduction of a government of national unity.

New opposition party RFP wins parliamentary elections in Lesotho

The new opposition party Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) surprisingly won last Friday’s parliamentary elections in Lesotho. The party was founded just six months ago by millionaire businessman Sam Matekane. This marks a change of government in the Kingdom of Lesotho, which has been ruled by the All Basotho Convention (ABC) since 2017. Although Friday was declared as a national day, the voter turnout was relatively low: Just 37% of the approximately 1.5 million eligible voters cast their ballots. According to the official results of the Independent Electoral Commission, the RFP won 56 seats, well ahead of the Democratic Congress (DC), which secured 29 of the 120 seats in the National Assembly, while the divided ruling party ABC was the big loser, winning just eight seats. The RFP around political newcomer Sam Matekane, who staged himself in the election campaign as a champion of the economy and outsider, thus fell just short of an absolute majority and will have to form a coalition government. The RFP’s success shows that in Lesotho many of the 1.5 million registered voters are dissatisfied with the country’s political leadership and want change. Lesotho has been governed by a series of coalition governments over the past decade, but these have been plagued by internal strife and have led the country into political instability and reform deadlock. None of the prime ministers elected by the National Assembly in the South African state’s constitutional monarchy remained in office for the full five years envisaged. Matakene, who had campaigned for an absolute majority against this backdrop during the election campaign, now announced the formation of a coalition with the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and promised to work together to push through the planned constitutional reforms aimed at stabilising the country politically. In addition, Lesotho is struggling with high unemployment and increasing criminalisation.

In other news

Currently, a competition is taking place in Madagascar to promote sustainable fashion. The competition is organised by the Institut français de Madagascar and Air France. From a total of 85 applications, five finalists were announced last Monday. The competition aims to raise public awareness of the concept of sustainable fashion and to draw attention to the lack of sustainability in manufacturing processes and consumer behaviour. Up to the final on 20 October, the candidates can participate in workshops on the topics of creation, sustainable development and entrepreneurship. The winner of the competition is invited to the next Fashion Week in Milan and receives a trip to the fashion metropolis Paris.

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