Press Review CW 32/2023: Reservations
Press Review 4 August 2023 to 11 August 2023

Preliminary results for constitutional referendum in Central African Republic

On Monday, the national electoral authority of the Central African Republic (CAR) published the preliminary results of the referendum held on 30 July on the amendment of the constitution. According to the national electoral authority, 95% of voters approved the constitutional amendment with a voter turnout of about 60%. On 27 August, the Constitutional Court will announce the final result. So far it is unclear how the changes to the constitution will be in detail, as the government has not yet published the new constitution. However, it is foreseeable that the constitutional amendment will undermine the maximum term limit for the presidency and thus allow the current president, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, to run for president for a third time. This could be facilitated either by abolishing the two-term limit in the new constitution or by resetting Touadéra’s terms, which would allow him to run for two more terms. According to reports, the new constitution will also provide for an extension of the president’s term of office from five to seven years, as well as the introduction of the office of vice-president, appointed by the president. The Constitutional Court, meanwhile, would be transformed into a council and expanded from nine to eleven members, three of whom would be appointed by the president instead of only one. This would strengthen power at the presidential level and weaken other institutions. Also known are plans to reduce the legislature to one chamber, which would abolish the Senate. In addition, citizens with dual citizenship would no longer be allowed to run for president, which would disqualify leading opposition politicians, such as Anict Georges Dologuélé and Crépin Mboli-Goumba, from running. The opposition now fears that Touadéra could become president for life if term limits are abolished. International human rights organisations as well as experts also see these changes as a strengthening of the country’s authoritarian course. After the publication of the preliminary results, parts of the opposition announced a boycott and accused the electoral authorities of bias and government influence. According to the opposition, voter turnout was only about 15%, far below the 60% communicated by the national electoral authority. Both the national election authority’s and the opposition’s figures are difficult to verify, as there were no recognised, independent election observers on the spot. Furthermore, voters in various locations reported attempts to influence the election at the polling stations. The opposition, together with civil society organisations and armed rebel groups, boycotted the referendum at the end of July. As early as March 2022, the government proposed lifting presidential term limits. Touadéra consequently set up a commission to draft a new constitution. However, the commission was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court and all proposed changes to the constitution were annulled. Touadéra then dismissed the president of the Constitutional Court, Danièle Darlan. In January, the Constitutional Court, under its new president Jean-Pierre Waboué, announced that a referendum on the constitutional amendment was compatible with the constitution. In the run-up to the referendum, opponents of the constitutional amendment were threatened by government officials and opposition protests were banned by the authorities, according to Human Rights Watch. To ensure security during election day, hundreds of additional Wagner fighters arrived in the CAR in July. The Wagner Group has been active in the CAR since 2019 and works closely with the government and the military. It was also deployed during the 2020 election, which saw several incidents involving armed rebel groups. In the 2020 election, Touadéra was elected for his second term, but the election was overshadowed by many allegations of fraud.

Opposition party in Angola demands president’s resignation

On Saturday, thousands of citizens gathered at a rally in the Angolan capital Luanda demanding the resignation of President Joao Laurenco. The demonstration was organised by the country’s largest opposition party, the União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola (UNITA) on the occasion of the birthday of the former leader of UNITA, Jonas Savimbi. He had been killed in 2002 during the 27-year civil war between UNITA and the ruling party Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), as a result of which a ceasefire was agreed between the parties to the conflict and UNITA gave up its armed struggle. At the centre of the rally, however, was the dissatisfaction of those present with the current government led by President Laurenco. With the drop in oil prices, Angola’s economy – Angola is Africa’s second largest oil producer and more than 90% of its exports come from the petroleum sector – has come under pressure, which has also affected the national currency. It was Africa’s weakest currency against the US dollar in June this year. To counteract this and minimise government spending, the government had cut petrol subsidies in June, which was accompanied by drastic price increases and has since led to nationwide protests, including clashes with the police. Other central themes of the rally were allegations of corruption against the government. UNITA, once a rebel movement that later transformed into a political party, and which lost last year’s parliamentary elections (press review CW 35/2022), announced its intention to depose President Lourenco through a parliamentary process. The party and its leader Adalberto Costa Júnior accuse President Laurenco of authoritarianism. According to the Angolan constitution, the president can be removed from office if his actions threaten basic democratic principles. However, this requires a two-thirds majority in parliament, where Laurenco’s MPLA holds the majority, and the approval of the courts. Experts therefore estimate the chances of success to be rather low, but at the same time there are also internal tensions within the ruling party that UNITA could use for its own purposes. When exactly UNITA wants to initiate parliamentary impeachment proceedings, the party initially left open. Concerns about human rights violations have also recently heightened tensions in the country and contributed to criticism of the government. Human Rights Watch recently documented numerous cases of unlawful killings and serious abuses by Angolan security forces against political activists and peaceful protesters since the beginning of the year. The international community and human rights defenders have called on Angola to hold those responsible for these acts accountable.

In other news

Last Sunday, the festive closing ceremony of the 9th Francophonie Games took place in the Congolese capital Kinshasa after nine days of sporting and artistic competitions. Over 3,000 participants aged between 18 and 35 from 37 nations engaged in various competitions such as football, table tennis, but also painting, photography and singing. President Félix Tshisekedi expressed confidence that the infrastructure projects surrounding the Games would benefit Congolese youth. According to the director of the Comité national des Jeux de la Francophonie (CNJF), the Congolese government had spent at least 149 million US dollars on the project. Consequently, the games should not only be seen as competitions and matches, but also as part of a social project that contributes to the training of referees and organisers as well as the development of physical education programmes.

Event information

As part of the 30th anniversary of its establishment, the Foundation Archive of Political Parties and Mass Organisations of the GDR in the Federal Archives (SAPMO) is organising a series of lectures in which speakers will illuminate a wide range of topics on the history of the GDR. On 7 September, the Federal Archive invites you to the lecture “Sneaker Diplomacy. The foreign work of GDR sport using Africa as an example (1955 – 1990)”. In his book of the same name, Dr Daniel Lange from the German-Namibian Society describes the key role played by the trade unions in building up the GDR sports system and illustrates the GDR’s international sports policy relations with Africa. Using various country examples, he shows the opportunities and limits of sport as a diplomatic means of building friendly relations with African countries in times of system competition. Admission to the events is free. The lectures will take place in the event hall of the Federal Archives, Finckensreinallee 63, 12205 Berlin.

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