Press Review CW 46/2023: Of offers and intrigues
Press Review 10 November 2023 to 17 November 2023

Gabon announces elections for 2025

On Monday, the military-led Committee for Transition and Restoration of Institutions (Comité pour la transition et la restauration des institutions CTRI) announced a timetable for the transition to civilian rule in Gabon. Colonel Ulrich Manfoumbi Manfoumbi, the spokesperson for the military junta under interim president Brice Oligui Nguema, announced on state television a two-year transition plan approved by the cabinet, which is to be concluded in August 2025 with presidential and parliamentary elections. However, the timetable presented is not final and requires public approval. An inclusive national dialogue chaired by the Archbishop of Libreville, Monsignor Jean-Patrick Iba-Ba, is therefore scheduled for April 2024. To approve the plan and make further proposals, civil society groups will be invited alongside government representatives. In addition, the transitional parliament appointed in September (Press review CW 37/2023) will be transformed into a Constituent Assembly in June 2024, which is to draft a new constitution by the end of October, which then needs to be adopted by a referendum at the end of 2024. In preparation for the upcoming elections, a reform of the electoral system and the electoral law is also planned for early 2025. The CTRI emphasised that the electoral process should be organised and conducted by an independent electoral commission and international election observers should also be admitted in order to ensure free and fair elections. The transition plan was welcomed by large sections of Gabonese civil society as an opportunity for democratic development, stability, institutional reforms and an end to the political crisis. It is the first time since the military seized power on 30 August this year (Press review CW 35/2023) that the transitional government has presented a concrete timetable for a return to democratic order. Previously, Nguema, who took office as interim president in September, had only spoken vaguely of a three-year transition period without specifying an exact end date, which was met with international criticism. The presentation of the new timetable is also part of Nguema’s latest diplomatic endeavours to end the political isolation of the state since the coup. Last week, he travelled to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh, where he met various African government representatives, including from Côte d’Ivoire and Mauritania, and asked for support for Gabon from the African Union (AU). The AU had suspended the Central African state’s membership for the time being following the military coup. Nguema has also recently come under pressure domestically after his Prime Minister Raymond Ndong Sima publicly spoke out in favour of a two-year transition period. It remains to be seen to what extent the time frame of the transition to civilian government will change and whether Nguema, who unlike the other members of the transitional government is not explicitly excluded from standing as a candidate according to the transitional charter, will run in the 2025 elections.

 

Opposition party in Zimbabwe loses more seats in parliament

Zimbabwe’s strongest opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), lost 13 additional seats in the National Assembly and five seats in the Senat on Tuesday. An impostor who had claimed to be a CCC party official had previously informed the parliament about the alleged resignation of those same MPs from the party, whereupon Jacob Mudenda, spokesperson of the National Assembly and  member of the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), declared their seats vacant. Among the recalled MPs was CCC faction leader Amos Chibaya, who strongly criticised the decision and emphasised in a press release that any communication from the party to the Presidium of Parliament should have gone through him. A similar incident had already occurred at the beginning of October. Sengezo Tshabangu, a member of the CCC, had written to Mudenda claiming to be the Interim Secretary General of the CCC and informing the speaker that 15 Members of Parliament were resigning from the party and would therefore give up their seats in parliament. In this incident, the seats were also declared vacant, although the Members of Parliament concerned had denied their resignation and party leader Nelson Chamisa had asked tMudenda to ignore the letter. This led to protests by Member of Parliaments from the CCC in the parliamentary chamber, which were dissolved with the help of riot police and resulted in the suspension of all parliamentarians from the CCC from six parliamentary sessions and a two-month suspension of their salaries. An appeal against the dismissal of the Members of Parliament  was rejected by the highest court. In order to fill these vacant seats in parliament, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced by-elections for December 9 this year. The by-elections could pave the way for Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF to gain a two-thirds majority in parliament after the ruling party narrowly missed out on this in the parliamentary elections in August (Press review CW 35/2023). Accordingly, the opposition accuses ZANU-PF of manipulation and holds it responsible for the dismissal of its Members of Parliament, while the ruling party denies all accusations. Tensions were further exacerbated on Monday when opposition member Tapfumanei Masaya was found dead on the outskirts of the capital Harare, his body showing signs of torture. Masaya had been abducted on Saturday, the third such incident in just a few weeks, but the first to result in death. The latest events are now fueling fears of outbreaks of violence in the upcoming by-elections. Although the parliamentary and presidential elections in August were for the most part peaceful, the election process and compliance with democratic election standards were heavily criticised by the opposition as well as by regional and international election observation missions such as those of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the European Union (EU) (Press review CW 35/2023).

 

In other news

On Sunday, Abudlrazak Gurnah, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, was the first African to give this year’s Marbach Schiller Speech, in which he recalled the German colonial crimes in his home country of Tanzania. The writer, who was born in Zanzibar and lives in Great Britain, warned that these crimes should not be trivialised and forgotten – taking historical responsibility for them is the first and central step towards reconciliation. In his novel Afterlives, Gurnah also devotes himself to the history of German colonialism in the former colony of German East Africa. It is a story about the East African soldier Hamza, who is given Schiller’s Muses’ Almanac for the year 1798 by an officer from Marbach in order to learn German. Since 1999, the Marbach Schiller Speech has been held annually at the German Literature Archive Marbach. The speakers, respected personalities from the fields of art, science and politics, refer to the works of Friedrich Schiller and thus commemorate the poet’s birthday and life’s work. The complete Schiller Speech 2023 can be found here.

 

Event notice

The 16th edition of AFRIKAMERA kicked off on Tuesday at the Arsenal cinema in Berlin. In the opening event, director C.J “Fiery” Osabi presented his new film Mami Wata, which was submitted as Nigeria’s entry for the 2024 Oscars. Until 19 November, AFRIKAMERA is bringing current cinema from Africa to Berlin under the thematic focus Urban Africa: Future and Utopias. More information regarding the program and tickets can be found here.

 

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