By Owei Lakemfa
Twenty-twenty is the Year of the Pandemic and Protests; the year of major elections and political upheavals. In October 2020 alone, street protests swept through many countries, making landfalls, with some leaders swept away.
The latest is President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan who had claimed victory in parliamentary elections. But the people disagreed and took to the streets. Rather than risk a clash between protesters and the security forces, he decided on October 15, to step down saying:
“ There is nothing dearer to me than the life of each of my compatriots. I’m not holding on to power. I do not want to remain in the history of Kyrgyzstan as the President who shed blood and shot at his own citizens. Therefore, I’ve decided to resign.”
In Belarus, a former Soviet Union state like Kyrgyzstan, disputed elections which triggered mass protests against President Alexander Lukashenko is still simmering.
In Israel, the country that tries to appropriate an ancient brand, protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their tens of thousands continue to demand his resignation or sack over corruption charges and his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than confront the protesters, Nethanyahu is offering Israelis more bribe by allowing the construction of thousands of new settlements on stolen Palestinian lands.
In October 2020, his government which had annexed the East Jerusalem homes of Palestinians as part of the new “undivided” capital of Israel, approved hundreds of new Israeli settlements on undisputed Palestinian lands in the wholly Palestinian city of Bethlehem.
Two ironies in this move. First, Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. But in Israel rendering Palestinians in Wadi Fukin village homeless in order to build another illegal settlement, it is waging war against a defenceless people. This in future will lead to more unrest.
Secondly, while the Israelis protest against Nethanyahu for corruptly enriching himself, they accept stolen lands from him to build new homes, thereby violating two of the Ten Commandments. The first is: “Thou shall not steal” The second is “Thou shall not covet thy neigbour’s house, thou shall not covet thy neigbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neigbour’s” (Exodus 20: 2-17)
Internationally, many Israelis think Nethanyahu is doing well bribing Middle East and African countries to resume diplomatic relations. The outstanding one this month, is offering Sudan $5million food aid in return for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. So the protest message from Israel is that while it is okay for Nethanyahu to be a crook abroad, he must not steal from the Israeli treasury.
The ruling party in Seychelles in the Indian Ocean archipelago has been in power for 43 years while Anglican priest and opposition leader, Wavel Ramkalawan, has been a serial presidential contender having ran for elections over the last three decades. That changed this Sunday when he trounced incumbent President Danny Faure, taking 54.9 per-cent of the votes to Faure’s 43.5 per-cent.
Both men promised to work together, declaring their country as the ultimate winner. This is in sharp contrast to the culture of elections in many African countries where elections are literally wars in which no prisoners are taken.
Meanwhile, the post-election violence predicted in Guinea is on with over two dozen deaths. Incumbent President Alpha Conde, 82, is in the race for a controversial third term. In March, he pushed through a constitutional amendment which changed the two-term limit. When his expected victory was announced on Saturday, renewed violence broke out. Opposition candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo, 68, also claimed victory.
The international community which could not call Conde to order, this Monday, sent a delegation from the United Nations, African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS to mediate. Meanwhile, the country burns.
A similar scenario is unfolding in Cote d’Ivoire where elections this Saturday, October 31, 2020 will feature incumbent President Alassane Ouattara who is running for an unconstitutional third term. To worsen matters, some political leaders like former President Laurent Gbagbo, former rebel leader Guillaume Soro and opposition leader Mamadou Koulibaly of the Freedom and Democracy for the Republic party, LIDER, are barred from contesting the elections.
A similar controversial election in 2010, led to over 3,000 deaths with Ouattara declared winner not by elections, but by the bayonets of interventionist French soldiers. The former International Monetary Fund, IMF, official who, at 78, is regarded as France’s boy in West Africa, still retains the support of his masters in Paris.
After subverting the constitution and getting strong opposition figures disqualified, Ouattara seems good for re-election, and the country for another round of violence. The UN-AU-ECOWAS peace team trying to douse the fires of unrest in Guinea, are likely to move over to Coted d’ Ivoire.
The elections in Bolivia on October 18, showed that a people united, can never be defeated. It evolved around the people but with a man called Evo Morales at the centre. He is an indigenous Indian, a people the ruling elites did not regard as human beings. Until 1952 the Indians, who constitute over 60 per-cent of the populace, were not allowed into squares and many public places. Where few were allowed, they were disinfected. Then Morales led successful street protests for justice.
On the back of this, he ran and won the presidential elections, first in December 2005, then 2009 and 2014. But when he won for a fourth time in 2019, the opposition candidate, Carlos Mesa protested the results. Underlying this was a pre-election controversy whether Morales was constitutionally qualified to run a fourth term. Morales agreed to a rerun, but Mesa insisted he be disqualified.
The military, led by then Chief of the Armed Forces, General Williams Kaliman, opportunistically moved in to stage a coup. Morales resigned and fled to Mexico. The Bolivian Vice President, Álvaro García; Senate Leader, Adriana Salvatierra; and House of Deputies’ Leader, Victor Borda, who could step in as Acting President, were also pressured to resign.
There was a lot of frenzy by the new regime to wipe out all Morales had achieved, including his government moving millions out of poverty, building huge infrastructure, diversifying the economy by concentrating on agriculture, redistributing land to the landless, increasing public spending by 750 per-cent and increasing annual income derivable from its oil from $173 Million in 2002 to $1.3 billion to $1.3 billion in 2006.
In the new elections with 88 per-cent turn out, Luis Arce, candidate of the Movement Towards Socialism, MAS, which had produced Morales, won 55 per-cent of the votes, while Mesa came second with 29 per-cent. Once again in Bolivia, the people have triumphed and shown that sovereignty belongs to them.