John J. Sullivan: Remarks on Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Sudan

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, John J. Sullivan, made these remarks on human rights and religious liberty in Khartoum on November 17, 2017.

Asalaam Alaikam. I am honored to join all of you here today. I would like to first thank the leaders of the Al-Neelain Mosque for hosting us today and for their gracious hospitality. Many people from different faiths, backgrounds, and cultures have joined us here today to talk about the important work they are undertaking in Sudan to embrace tolerance and further the goal of mutual respect among all citizens.

John J. Sullivan Sudan Khartoum Deputy Secretary of StateIt was a great privilege to spend time with many of you earlier this morning and to learn about the many ways that interfaith groups are working together to forge a new path forward in Sudan and to move away from divisions based on religion and culture. Our discussion was particularly significant as we continue to build a new relationship between the United States and Sudan. I want you to know that the U.S. government and international community stand with you in this important work.

This is my first visit to your beautiful country. Secretary Tillerson asked me to travel to Khartoum to speak with you and your government about the growing importance of our bilateral relationship. I am here today to underscore one key aspect of that relationship: the shared values of mutual respect, tolerance, and religious freedom.

I would like to share a bit of my own personal history on these topics, as they are central to who I am. I am the grandson of Irish-Catholic immigrants who arrived in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1880s. At the time they arrived – and for many decades that followed – Catholics in the United States faced widespread prejudice based on their religion. When John F. Kennedy – another Catholic from my home state – ran for President of the United States in 1960, he even had to give a prominent speech to reassure the nation that his faith was compatible with the duties of the office of President.

In the United States today, recalling such history seems quaint. But it was not easy, and it took many decades. Eventually divisions were narrowed and mutual understanding between Catholics and Protestants in the United States improved substantially. Today, it is nearly unthinkable that one’s status as a Catholic in the United States would serve as a disadvantage to one’s ambitions for life.

The American experience in this regard underscores that respect for the human dignity of every person – regardless of religious belief or origin – is a key component of not only protecting human rights, but also fostering a society that can flourish, build upon each other’s strengths, and move forward together.

This brings me to one of the purposes of my visit: to make clear that the United States remains deeply committed to positive engagement with Sudan on a wide range of topics – including the protection of religious freedom and the promotion of other human rights throughout your country.

This path of closer engagement is new for both of us.

In 2015, after decades of strained bilateral relations, the United States began a measured engagement with your government to urge greater progress in various peace processes and to seek positive changes for the people of Sudan – regardless of religion, class, or ethnic background.

In June 2016, Sudan and the United States initiated a historic framework for the path forward, the so-called Five Track Engagement Plan.

This plan outlined five priority areas for constructive engagement, and required the Sudanese government to:

1) cease hostilities in conflict regions, including the aerial bombardment in Darfur and the Two Areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states;
2) improve humanitarian access throughout Sudan so that aid groups could provide vital resources and assistance needed by the Sudanese people;
3) refrain from interfering in South Sudan and instead play a constructive role in regional peace efforts;
4) cooperate with regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, and;
5) build U.S.-Sudanese cooperation on counter terrorism, and make both of our countries safer.

In each of those five areas, the Government of Sudan has made measureable progress. As a result, last month, the United States formally revoked certain U.S. sanctions on Sudan to open a new chapter in our bilateral relationship.

We hope that these positive developments are emblematic of a positive trajectory for the future of our bilateral relationship. But, we also recognize that completion of the Five Track Engagement Plan is only a first step on a longer road toward fully normalizing our bilateral relations. More hard work is required – from both of our countries.

The United States is eager to see Sudan make progress in a range of areas in the months and years ahead, as we work towards a new framework for bilateral engagement. In short, the closer our countries become, the higher our expectations for Sudan will become.

Sudan map human rights religious freedomThis engagement will proceed on several fronts. For Sudan to become a full partner of the United States, it must seek peace within its borders and with its neighbors, and cooperate reliably with the international community to improve security and prosperity in the region and adhere to long-standing international norms.

In addition, supporting human rights, including religious freedom, has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of the United States’ bilateral engagement with Sudan.

In the United States, the protection of the basic rights and freedoms of our citizens is fundamental to who we are as a nation. The Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution – our foundational legal document – sets forth protections for individual liberties and prohibitions on government power in these realms, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. These are among our most cherished rights as Americans, and the protection of human rights and the dignity of the individual has served as a key basis of U.S. foreign policy throughout our history.

This history has shown that U.S. partnerships around the world are strongest and most durable with countries that take the necessary steps to protect the same basic human rights and freedoms that are central in the United States.

In the years ahead, one measure of the strength of the U.S.-Sudanese relationship will be improvements in Sudan’s respect for human rights and, in particular, religious freedom. Indeed, one of the reasons I am speaking to you today – at the Al-Neelain Mosque, with Sudanese Muslim and Christian leaders – is to emphasize that the United States cares deeply about religious freedom in Sudan.

By taking steps to enhance protections for religious freedom, the Government will make the entire country more stable and secure.

Interfaith understanding, respect, and the protection of religious freedom and other human rights are bulwarks against extremism. Religious tolerance is a building block of peace and security and is the mark of responsible governance. The treatment of members of religious minorities is often the ultimate indicator of a government’s commitment to these values.

When governments favor a specific religious, ethnic, or sectarian group over others, violent radicalism thrives. We also know that governments that sponsor or condone violence against their own people are far more likely to see violent extremism growing in their country.

But by protecting every person’s human rights, society is more just, more free, and more stable for everyone.

For these reasons, we urge the Government of Sudan to protect basic freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, religion, and movement. The United States calls on Sudan to protect political opposition members, human rights defenders, civil society groups, and the media. We also urge the government to hold accountable all who are responsible for human rights abuses.

On the issue of religious freedom, the United States has continued to designate Sudan as a “Country of Particular Concern.” The State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report noted instances of the arrest, detention, and intimidation of religious leaders, and the denial of permits for the construction of new churches; restrictions on non-Muslim religious groups from entering the country; and the censorship of religious material.

During my discussions with senior leaders over the last 6 months, we have welcomed the Sudanese Government’s expressed desire to take steps to overcome its designation as a Country of Particular Concern. However, for that to occur, we must see concrete and demonstrable progress through better policies and improved laws.

We have communicated these steps to the Sudanese Government through a proposed “Action Plan,” which we hope Sudan will approve and enact. As an immediate confidence-building measure, we have suggested that the Government convene a roundtable with members of religious minority groups about property registration issues, as certain government officials have cited registration issues as the rationale for the demolitions of places of worship. The Government of Sudan, including the Federal States, should also immediately suspend demolitions of places of worship, including churches and mosques.

President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Tillerson have made clear that the protection and promotion of religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Administration. As we move forward in our relationship, the United States will not ignore violations of human rights, including the right to religious freedom.

The United States is ready and willing to assist in these efforts. To that end, we will explore opportunities to work with religious leaders who build bridges through tolerance and interfaith understanding to counter extremism – like those leaders with me here today – while we bring in new voices to further conversations about accountability and inclusive governance.

The United States will also review our people-to-people programs, such as the Young African Leaders Initiative and International Visitor Leadership Program, to identify ways to maximize partnerships and exchanges with the people of Sudan. I am pleased to see so many alumni here this morning as a testament to the success of these programs.

Indeed, we believe that any country-to-country relationship begins on the individual level. We are committed to finding more avenues for Sudanese religious and youth leaders to advance interfaith efforts for peace.

Before I conclude, I also want to touch on a few other important aspects of the U.S.-Sudan relationship.

We recognize that there are ongoing impediments, including certain commercial and financial restrictions, on the bilateral relationship between our countries and a lack of normalized diplomatic relations. Further strengthening of our bilateral relationship will require a renewed commitment by the Government of Sudan on other policies beyond religious freedom.

In particular, while restraint and a cessation of attacks in conflict areas is a positive step forward, we now expect the Sudanese government to move closer to a permanent ceasefire that will create an opening for a truly inclusive political dialogue in Darfur and the Two Areas.

The armed opposition must of course also denounce hostilities and make a commitment to a negotiated peace. All parties who have signed the African Union roadmap must live up to their commitment to engage in dialogue toward a resolution of the conflicts and a comprehensive and inclusive political process, and those who have yet to join the process must do so, as there is no other path to peace and improving the conditions of the people living in the conflict areas. As a first step, the opposition should accept the U.S. proposal to facilitate humanitarian aid in conflict areas across lines to help those who are suffering the most.

Moving forward, we also encourage the Government to improve cooperation with UNAMID – the AU-UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur. UNAMID protects civilians, facilitates humanitarian assistance, and mediates conflict at the local and national level in Darfur.

This mission – which the United States strongly supports – will continue to be instrumental to Sudan’s future and greater collaboration with the UN is a win-win proposition for the people of Sudan.

Violence, war, and ongoing instability are holding Sudan back from a future with great potential. Conflict has affected millions. Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese have been displaced and killed. It is time for a path to reconciliation and peace. Your country’s prosperity and the security of future generations depend on it.

The United States calls on all parties to take this opportunity to define a way forward that will help all of Sudan’s people.

Finally, the United States is also looking for the Sudanese Government to help counter international security threats. In that regard, I very much appreciate and applaud Sudan’s public statements condemning North Korean provocations, and Sudan’s full commitment to compliance with the UN Security Council Resolutions regarding North Korea. Finally, the statements yesterday by the Government of Sudan affirming that it will cut off all ties with North Korea is most welcome.

Let me conclude by noting that I am deeply encouraged by the interactions I have had with the Government and with civil society representatives during my visit here. The religious leaders with whom I met earlier today are a deep source of inspiration. Indeed, there are challenges that lie ahead, but we should all have reason for hope and optimism about the growing engagement between our two countries.

Thank you for your hospitality and kindness. I look forward to many more opportunities to further our goals of a more peaceful and prosperous Sudan – a Sudan that respects the rights of persons of every faith.

Rex Tillerson: Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson delivered these remarks at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Friday, November 17, 2017. The occasion was a gathering of about three dozen African foreign ministers or their designated representatives.

Thank you. And good morning, everyone. It really is my honor to welcome all of you to the State Department this morning.

And we are grateful to see so many friends and partners here in the United States, and appreciate you traveling to be with us today for this event.

Rex Tillerson Africa ministerialI have been very eager to host this ministerial meeting to bring together leaders from the continent to address our shared goals and, as I was sharing with the chairman of the African Union yesterday evening, I have not had the chance during my time as Secretary of State to travel to the continent. In my prior life, I came to your continent a lot and I visited many of your countries. But I do look forward to coming early next year. We have a trip that’s in the planning now, so – but in the meantime, really did not want to wait that long to get this group together. So very eager to host this ministerial meeting and appreciate you all coming to address our shared goals and challenges, and I look forward to a full day of discussions on how we can work together to achieve those shared goals.

I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution.

Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights.

Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.

Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.

Let me briefly touch on how these issues will help us strengthen U.S.–Africa relations and our ties in the coming decades.

We’re going to begin today’s proceedings with a discussion on ways we can work together to expand trade and investment, and grow economic opportunities that benefit the people of Africa and the American people.

Trade and investment between the United States and African countries is growing. U.S. exports to Sub-Saharan Africa grew from $17 billion in 2010 to more than $25 billion in 2014. And last year, the U.S. direct investment in Africa grew to $57.5 billion – the highest level to date.

Our trade and investment is stronger than it’s ever been, and the United States sees even more opportunity ahead in the coming years.

Africa is a growing market with vast potential. Five of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are in Africa, and consumer spending there is projected to exceed $2 million[1] by the year 2025.

By the year 2030, Africa is expected to represent about one quarter of the world’s workforce and consumers, with a population of more than 1.7 billion. By 2050, the population of the continent is projected to double to more than 2.5 billion people – with 70 percent of that population being under the age of 30. All of these young people will have expectations for entering the workforce. The challenge is how to prepare Africa with the appropriate education for its workforce, and to prepare economically and financially for this future, so our partnership can facilitate greater growth and prosperity for both the United States and Africa.

This administration seeks to refocus our economic relationship squarely on trade and investment – to encourage policies that increase openness and competition within Africa.

A more economically vibrant and competitive Africa will grow the middle class, increase standards of living, and make the entire continent more prosperous.

I am also pleased to welcome with us today USAID Administrator Mark Green, and I look forward to his comments on this topic shortly. We also look forward to hearing from private sector leaders, and are very eager to learn more about your views and priorities for expanding trade and investment. Through Power Africa, for example, the United States and its partners have helped the private sector bring 82 power projects to Sub-Saharan Africa.

But economic growth and lasting prosperity can only thrive in environments of good government – good governance.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson official portraitSo we are going to discuss at our working lunch today how a country’s success is firmly rooted in good governance, which fosters strong, accountable relationships between citizens and their elected officials, how that drives economic progress, and improves overall security.

Lasting peace and economic growth are undermined when governments fail to provide good governance, respect for human rights, or to uphold the law.

Peaceful, democratic transitions are important and contribute to stability. But democracy is not just about elections, and elections are neither the first nor are they the final step in the long road to building resilient democracies.

Democracy requires the inclusive, peaceful participation of a nation’s citizens in the political process. That includes freedoms of expression and association, an independent press, a robust and engaged civil society, a government that is transparent and accountable to all of its citizens, and a fair and impartial judiciary. Corruption and weak governance, restriction on human rights and civil society, and authorities who ignore the rule of law and change their constitutions for personal gain are all obstacles to the development of prosperous, free societies. In fact, an African Union study estimated that corruption costs the continent roughly $150 billion a year.

This is money that should be used to create jobs, build schools and hospitals, improve security, and provide social services.

A quality basic education is another powerful contributor to economic growth and development – one that reduces poverty and provides children and youth the skills they need for gainful employment. We have worked with you to build the capacity for your national education system to offer quality education for more people, and we look forward to continued partnership to address low literacy rates, teacher shortages, and greater access to education across all of Africa.

We encourage our African counterparts to address these many governance challenges, and in doing so, unlock your country’s development potential. We look forward to discussing today specific ways to strengthen democracy and promote better governance over our lunch discussions.

The United States also stands with you as we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism, which have taken so many innocent lives in Africa and across the world. That will be our final topic of discussion today.

We are particularly grateful for the work of African countries to expand multinational and regional cooperation to counter terrorism. The United States is committed to partnering with you to defeat ISIS, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups across your continent.

Just last month, I announced that the United States pledged up to an additional $60 million in funding to support the G-5 Sahel Joint Force in counterterrorism efforts, and to bolster our regional partners in their fight to provide security and stability.

The United States, as the largest peacekeeping capacity-building contributor, is also helping over 20 African countries train, deploy, and sustain peacekeepers. This year, such efforts have already supported the training of more than 27,000 African peacekeepers to the UN and AU missions.

But we recognize that the force of arms alone is insufficient.

It is imperative that we work together, and with civil society, to address the root causes of violent extremism. To create sustainable peace, we must also combat marginalization, strengthen accountability, and create more economic opportunity.

Before I conclude, let me stress that the United States seeks greater support from our African partners on growing global security matters, including North Korea.

We appreciate the statements condemning the DPRK missile launches that many of your governments have made. But all nations must act to implement UN sanctions in full and cut off all UN-proscribed ties.

Further, I urge you to take additional measures to pressure the DPRK by downgrading your diplomatic relationships with the regime, severing economic ties, expelling all DPRK laborers, and reducing North Korea’s presence in your country in all other ways it may be found.

The DPRK presents a threat to all of our nations. Everyone – including each country represented here today – must play a part in this peaceful pressure campaign to convince the DPRK that the only way to achieve true security and respect from the international community is to abandon its current path and choose a meaningful dialogue about a different future.

The United States will continue to support your efforts to secure your citizens, encourage stronger institutions and better governance, and promote greater economic growth for each of your countries.

I really do look forward to our time together today and in particular to hear how you are working to address these challenges, and how we can learn from your experience and strengthen this already very fruitful partnership.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Read the original press release from the Department of State here.

Somaliland shows how Africa can lead in voting technology

Calestous Juma, Harvard University

Africa has become a testing ground for technological leapfrogging. This is a process that involves skipping stages and moving rapidly to the frontiers of innovation.

Technological leapfrogging in Africa has, so far, focused on economic transformation and the improvement of basic services. Drones are a good example: they’re used in the continent’s health services and in agriculture. In South Africa, robots play a crucial role in mining.

Somaliland iris scan voting technology
Somaliland’s shift to use iris recognition in a presidential election stems from distrust in the voting system.


Now, in a remarkable extension of technological leapfrogging, Somaliland has become the first country in the world to use iris recognition in a presidential election. This means that a breakaway republic seeking international recognition will have the world’s most sophisticated voting register.

Democracy and tech in Africa

Somaliland’s shift to such advanced voting technology emerged from a lack of trust because of problems with the 2008 elections. For instance, names were duplicated in the voter register because of pressure from local elders. These fraudulent activities and other logistical issues threatened to undermine Somaliland’s good standing in the international community.

Of course, Somaliland is not the only country in Africa to experience problems with its election processes. Others, like Kenya, have also turned to technology to try and deal with their challenges. This is important. Being able to hold free, fair and credible elections is critical in democratic transitions. The lack of trust in the electoral process remains a key source of political tension and violence.

Technology can help – and Somaliland is set to become a regional powerhouse in the production and deployment of the technological know-how that underpins electronic voting.

So how did Somaliland reach this point? And what lessons do its experiences hold for other countries?

Important lessons

The first lesson, then, relates to political will. Since 1991, Somaliland has operated as an autonomous state trying to build new institutions. One of its central goals is to gain international recognition as a sovereign state. Being able to conduct free, fair, credible and just elections is central to this goal and its international image. Somaliland wants to rank highly in the indices of democratic performance – and that’s a strong driver to develop and embrace electoral practices that are in line with international standards.

The second involves problem-solving and incremental technological learning. Somaliland wanted to reduce voter duplication. It compared the efficacy of different face, finger and iris recognition technologies, and this assessment showed that iris recognition was superior.

Pilot efforts then allowed for lessons in the design of the system, which helped to reduce anxiety over the consequences of possible failure during elections. It also made the process transparent; interested users could access the available datasets. This enhanced public trust.

Somaliland has also wisely used international experts in biometrics. Much of the debate about the use of electronic voting systems centres on how the technology is procured. The country sought the support of Notre Dame University in the US in 2014. Their world class work on biometrics is led by Professor Kevin Bowyer. Such partnerships ensure technical expertise. This, in turn, helps boost ordinary people’s trust in their country’s electoral system.

The shift to electronic voting has also influenced the conduct of some observation missions. In Somaliland, electoral observation will in future include examinations of the iris recognition technology. This changes the expertise needed to observe elections.

This approach is in sharp contrast with the 2017 Kenya elections. There, international observers used traditional monitoring methods – and validated an election that was later annulled by the country’s Supreme Court. It was a case where electoral institutions had not caught up with technology.

Wider issues

This raises some wider issues that need to be addressed so that they don’t get in the way of this progression.

The first is to emphasise that the technology, in most cases, will enhance and upgrade political infrastructure – even if they appear to bypass or replace it. For example, there are concerns that drones, used to transport medical supplies in places like Rwanda and Tanzania, divert financial resources from multi-purpose infrastructure like roads. In fact, the use of drones in medical supplies expands infrastructure options. They allow countries to align delivery means with specific needs, in a timely and efficient manner.

Secondly, technological and service leapfrogging usually go together. This has been demonstrated in Africa’s mobile revolution. The widespread adoption of the Mpesa money transfer system best illustrates this point, as it is about changes in consumer behaviour and local manufacturing.

Finally, there are ample opportunities for international joint ventures in technological leapfrogging across Africa. Many of them however are being smothered by taxation and regulations. This is partly because of the pressure to generate state revenue and partially due to a lack of understanding.

With more products and processes to trade with, the world stands to benefit from Africa’s increased participation in the global technology market. And it is encouraging to see that this is a movement which has the political support of African presidents; a support reflected in the adoption of the Science, Technology and Innovation in Africa Strategy (STISA-2024) by the African Union.

The ConversationFor now, Africa’s technological futures are not only open but expanding in all directions. Somaliland’s application in improving governance is the tip of the iceberg. It creates exciting possibilities for the continent to provide leadership in other areas of technological advancement.

Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University Twitter @Caestous, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Zimbabwe’s Dictator Fell but the Country Is Still In Trouble

Things in the beleaguered African country might yet get worse before they get better.

by Marian L. Tupy

I was still a university student when I learned that Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe since 1980, had started expropriating land from that country’s farmers, leading to the second highest hyperinflation in recorded history and a spectacular economic contraction. Back then, I confidently predicted that the people of Zimbabwe would rise up and overthrow the ZANU-PF dictatorship. That was 17 years ago and, duly chastised, I have refrained from making definite predictions ever since.

At last, the wily dictator, now aged 93, appears to have met his match in the one man who is arguably even more brutal than Mugabe himself. Emmerson Mnangagwa is a killer and a fitting successor to the man he is likely to replace.

What’s Happening in Zimbabwe?

For decades, Mugabe dominated Zimbabwe’s politics and bestrode the global stage as Africa’s elder statesman. He accomplished the former by bribing, torturing and murdering his opponents. He achieved the latter via a cultural quirk, which venerates the aged, no matter how despicable.

The increasingly senile nonagenarian, however, made a serious error on November 6, when he sacked his Vice President, Emmerson “Crocodile” Mnangagwa, in order to facilitate the succession of his 52-year old wife, Grace “Gucci” Mugabe. That was Plan B. Mugabe tried to have Mnangagwa poisoned first. Alas, the Crocodile survived an assassination attempt in August and used his carefully cultivated military connections to turn the tables on Mugabe.

Mnangagwa presided over the Gukurahundi pogrom and murder of approximately 20,000 people in Matabeleland.

As things stand, the military, which launched a coup d’état on Tuesday, has Mugabe under arrest in Harare and his wife exiled in Namibia. Most commentators seem to assume that the dictator will now be forced to hand over the reins of power to his erstwhile deputy.

Mnangagwa has been at the centre of power in Zimbabwe since that country’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. In addition to the Vice Presidency, he has held a number of ministerial positions, though none as consequential as his stint as Minister of National Security between 1980 and 1988, when he presided over the Gukurahundi pogrom and murder of approximately 20,000 people in Matabeleland.

What sort of a country is the 75-year old génocidaire going to inherit from his predecessor? First, Zimbabwe is a dictatorship, with the opponents of the ruling ZANU-PF regime regularly beaten, jailed and even murdered. Elections, including the one in 1980 that brought Mugabe to power, are either heavily rigged or are conducted in an atmosphere of political violence against the heroic but blundering opposition. The country has no freedom of speech, with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation serving as the regime’s propaganda tool. That is why the military’s first move was to take over its Harare headquarters.

Hyperinflation and a Tanking GDP

Some four million Zimbabweans, especially the best and brightest, have left the country. They keep the 16 million people still in the country afloat through remittances amounting to over a billion dollars a year.

Speaking of the economy, following Mugabe’s assault on property rights and the rule of law in the early 2000s, the country has experienced hyperinflation that peaked at an annualised rate of 90 sextillion percent in November 2008. That year, output fell to a level last seen in 1979, while GDP per capita fell to where it was in the 1950s. Unemployment rocketed to 90 percent and the state’s functions – with the crucial exceptions of the military and secret police – effectively ceased to operate.

Zimbabwe's per capita GDP

The international community stepped in and organized a power-sharing deal between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, under which the country was governed between 2009 and 2013.

As befits its bumbling nature, the MDC was given the thankless task of cleaning up the economic mess, as well as trying to improve health and education in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, ZANU-PF kept control of the powerful ministries, such as the police and the military.

Unsurprisingly, the 2013 general election saw Mugabe regain full control of the country and Mnangagwa, who was instrumental in keeping the dictator in power through the worst of the economic crisis, was soon elevated to the Vice Presidency.

Zimbabwe's GDP chart graph

Those of us who have spent years advocating in favor of political and economic freedom in the Southern African country, not to mention millions of Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora, will rejoice at seeing the back of a corrupt and brutal dictator. But it would be a mistake to be too hopeful. The man who seems poised to take over is just as corrupt and just as brutal as Mugabe. Things in the beleaguered African country might yet get worse before they get better.

Reprinted from CapX.

Marian L. Tupy Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe

Marian L. Tupy is the editor of and a senior policy analyst at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity.

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

After coup, will Zimbabwe see democracy or dictatorship?

Steven Feldstein, Boise State University

For decades, Robert Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe in a ruthless, even reckless manner. Over nearly 40 years, he turned the “jewel of Africa” into an economic basket case that’s seen inflation of up to 800 percent.

Zimbabwe Africa Then, late in the night of Nov. 14, the country’s security services detained and put Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old president under house arrest in what appeared to be a military coup. The whereabouts of his powerful wife, Grace, are unconfirmed.

Much remains unclear at this early stage. Will violence erupt? Is this really the end of the Mugabe era?

I don’t know the answers to those questions yet. I’m not sure even Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who appears to have orchestrated Mugabe’s overthrow, knows how his gambit will turn out.

But with each passing hour, it is increasingly evident that Zimbabwe – a country whose politics I spent uncountable hours grappling with as a State Department official – is poised to see its first real leadership transition since 1980.

Setting the stage for Zimbabwe’s coup

For decades, Mugabe’s grip on Zimbabwe was iron-clad. Even when challenged by an invigorated opposition in 2008, he kept the presidency by entering into a nominal power-sharing agreement. After a decisive electoral victory in 2013, though, he cast the coalition aside.

But as the elderly president grew increasingly frail this year, the power struggle to succeed him became frenzied. Two major camps were vying for power.

Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, who as a soldier fighting for Zimbabwe’s liberation earned the nickname “the crocodile,” represented the old guard. The 75-year-old enjoyed strong military backing, particularly from the veterans’ association, a powerful coalition of former combatants from Zimbabwe’s independence struggle which began in 1964 and ended in 1979.

Last year, the group broke with Mugabe in a public letter, declaring that he had “presided over unbridled corruption and downright mismanagement of the economy, leading to national economic ruin.” Many believed that Vice President Mnangagwa orchestrated the group’s letter as a shot across the bow to warn would-be rivals.

The second camp jockeying to control Zimbabwe before the coup was led by Mugabe’s current wife, Grace Mugabe. At a relatively spry 53, she represented the younger generation, drawing significant support from the ruling party’s loyalist Youth League and from an informal grouping of emerging leaders known as “Generation 40.”

But Grace Mugabe was deeply unpopular among ordinary Zimbabweans, who called her “Gucci Grace” because of her extravagant spending. Plus, she had a reputation for cruelty. Earlier this year, the president’s wife faced accusations of beating a 20-year old South African model with an electric cable.

In September, after Vice President Mnangagwa was emergency airlifted to South Africa due to a strange illness, Grace Mugabe had to publicly deny, on state TV, that she had poisoned her rival.

As recently as early November, it appeared that Grace’s camp had prevailed. President Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa. Mnangagwa, it seems, had a different plan. While in exile, he stayed in touch with his military allies.

On Nov. 14, Mnangagwa’s camp struck back. By the next morning, Mugabe was under house arrest, his wife had reportedly fled to Namibia seeking asylum and Mnangagwa’s cohort appeared to control the country.

Democracy or dictatorship?

At least, that’s the picture right now. Events have moved swiftly in the last 24 hours, and some big questions remain unanswered.

If Mnangagwa officially takes power, the first unknown is whether he will rule by fiat or cobble together a transitional government. It’s unclear whether Mnanangwa and his allies have any real interest in introducing democracy to Zimbabwe. To do so, they would need to hold an election within a reasonable period of time, say six months.

Military coups don’t have a promising track record of ushering in democracy. Recent scholarship finds that while “democratization coups” have become more frequent worldwide, their most common outcome is to replace an incumbent dictatorship with a “different group of autocrats.”

Signals in Zimbabwe are mixed so far. Experts generally describe the latest developments as “an internecine fight” among inner-circle elites and ask two key questions: Which side will prevail, and will violence break out?

In my assessment, the answers hinge on Mnangagwa, a hard-nosed realist and survivor who was critical in securing Mugabe’s four-decade rule. Mnangagwa has an appalling human rights record. Many consider him responsible for overseeing a series of massacres between 1982 and 1986 known as the “Gukurahundi,” in which an estimated 20,000 civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group perished.

More recently, in 2008, civil society groups accused Mnangagwa of orchestrating electoral violence against the political opposition and rigging polls in Mugabe’s favor.

It is also true that Mnangagwa is massively invested in ensuring his continued and unfettered access to power, which has proven highly lucrative for him. The vice president is “reputed” to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people. All of this suggests he might become yet another dictator.

‘Unity’ for Zimbabwe?

Nonetheless, reports indicate that Mnangagwa is currently talking to several opposition parties about potentially forming a transitional government.

A key stakeholder in any such arrangement would be Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, who served as prime minister to Mugabe as part of the 2009 power-sharing agreement.

That coalition achieved some success on economic matters, but Mugabe’s party never relinquished any real authority. Mnangagwa was among those who clung to power back then, but I believe he might play things differently now. Mnangagwa is no reformer, but he does need to find ways to bolster his legitimacy. Not to mention he will quickly need to confront Zimbabwe’s massive economic woes.

The choices that Zimbabwe’s political leadership makes in the coming weeks will have immense consequences for the future of a country whose development has stagnated under 40 years of authoritarian rule.

The ConversationReal transitions in Zimbabwe are all too rare. Mugabe led the country to independence in March 1980, assumed the presidency and never left. His demise represents a chance for a political reset.

Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.