AFRICA 2016: FLASHPOINTS TO WATCH

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Africa-CountriesIt’s still early in 2016. The smell of fireworks linger in the air. And the sweet sounding New Year resolutions still ring in the ears. But across our motherland of Africa, 2016 presents a basket of mixed fortunes.

From Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt, from Mombasa, Kenya to Lagos Nigeria, Africans are crying for progress, peace, decent housing, quality education, affordable healthcare and food. The threat of sectarian violence continues to grow.

Libya is a gone case with sectarian fighting in every corner of the country. South Sudan became independent in 2011 after breaking away from the mainly Muslim Sudan. But a brutal civil war has devastated the new country and close to half of its population of 11 million are now faced with famine.

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In Ethiopia, government plans to expand the city of Addis Ababa have provoked protests by the Oromia community in whose province the city falls. Dozens have died in the government’s response to the violent protests. The Oromo have a grudge against the authorities in Addis Ababa who they accuse of marginalizing them, despite being the largest ethnic community in Ethiopia.

This crisis is a major test to Ethiopia’s hawk-eyed security forces who have prevented Somalia-based Al Shabab from carrying out attacks in the country. In addition, a prolonged drought in 2015 has severely affected food supply. The UN estimates that close to 10 million people will need food aid in 2016. About US $500 million is required to mitigate the food crisis.

Burundi president, Pierre Nkurunziza is among a growing list of African Third Termers that include president Kagame of Rwanda and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. The government and Opposition in Burundi have so far maintained their hardline positions and the conflict in which many have died shows no sign of abating.

President Museveni, in power since he led the guerilla National Resistance Movement to power in 1986, faces the strongest opposition from his former comrades-in-arms, Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye. The failure of the Ugandan Opposition to unite could hand Museveni an easy victory in the next general elections which could also ignite sectarian fighting.

President Museveni is the current undisputed Baba of Eastern Africa politics. He is said to have influenced political developments in South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, The DRC and his forces are part of AMISOM, the African Union intervention force in Somalia.

In Kenya, Opposition leader Raila Odinga has led a three-year touting campaign against the ruling Jubilee administration. Even the government’s sacking of six members of cabinet accused of corruption could not satisfy the Opposition who continued to ask for more blood.

As a result, Kenya enters 2016 with heightened political tension due to early campaigns for the August 2017 general elections. Historically, businesses in Kenya used to engage the wait-and-see mode during the election year. The Kenyan Opposition has suffered from election fever since they lost the March 2013 elections. The ruling Jubilee administration has finally caught the election fever and political temperatures are hitting the roof in the country.

While the final decision still remains with the voters, the Kenyan Opposition may live to regret for having sprinted so early in the elections race, unless they have the staying power of Asbel Kiprop, the distinguished Kenyan middle-distance runner.  So far, the construction industry remains bullish to supply the estimated backlog of 200,000 housing units in the country per year.

If the diaspora demand -driven construction industry survives the currently charged political climate, Kenya will achieve a big milestone. The pattern of cycles of violence following elections since the first multi-party elections of 1992 will be broken. And each political side, in or out of office will be the winner for Kenya. There is a lot Africa could learn from United States where it is business as usual, even with the ongoing early campaigns for the November 2016 presidential elections.

By Leonard Njoroge, DM Media Contributor

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