BOSTON — Rebels, elections, presidents who don’t want to give up power, oil and diamonds: There are many stories from Africa that will capture world headlines in 2011.
1) First of all comes Ivory Coast which starts the year in confusion and turmoil. Which of its two presidents will lead the country through 2011? Laurent Gbagbo, who has ruled the country for 10 years and has refused to accept that he lost the November election? Or Alassane Ouattara, the challenger who won the poll and has international backing, but does not control the army or police?
The fate of Ivory Coast hangs in the balance. Will the country return to civil war? Will Gbagbo hang onto power. Will Ouatarra succeed in taking the reins? 2011 should answer these questions.
2) Whether or not southern Sudan becomes the independent country of South Sudan and whether or not it will break out into war will be a major story throughout 2011.
Sudan will go to the polls on Jan. 9 to vote on whether the southern part of the country should become independent. Sudan is Africa’s largest country and if the South breaks away, it will be the size of Texas.
The people of southern Sudan are adamant they should become free from the northern-based Khartoum government. But President Omar al-Bashir’s government benefits from the oil pumped in South Sudan. Bashir’s government has used violence in the western Darfur region and for years it waged a bloody war against the South. Will it let the South secede peacefully?
George Clooney and a posse of Hollywood stars launched a satellite surveillance system to watch out for signs of impending war, such as troop movements or weapons deliveries. Sudan will be a major story to watch in 2011.
3) Somalia starts 2011 as the world’s most failed state. That’s how it has been for more than 20 years. Will Somalia improve and move toward stability and a functioning government in the coming year? Or will it carry on as a center of chaos, violence and Islamic extremism?
A major question is whether the shaky government of Sheikh Ahmed Sharif will stay in power. A lot depends on the support Sharif receives from the African Union, in the form of armed Ugandan peacekeepers. Even with their support he is only able to hold a few city blocks of the capital, Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab, the Islamic extremists who are allied with Al Qaeda, are stepping up their battle for Mogadishu. In addition Somalia’s pirates continue to hijack ships across the Indian Ocean. Somalia will be in the news.
4) Goodluck Jonathan is called Nigeria’s accidental president because the Christian from the South was plucked from relative obscurity to serve as vice president to Muslim northerner Umaru Yar’adua and then Jonathan became president when Yar’adua died. Jonathan has tried to stamp out Nigeria’s endemic corruption but his efforts may well be curtailed in the April 9 election.
Jonathan will face stiff competition from well-known Muslim politicians. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous democracy and boasts the continent’s largest economy. It is plagued by sporadic violence by rebels in the oil producing Niger Delta area. Most importantly the country is troubled by widespread poverty. These issues will all be highlighted in the 2011 election.
5) Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has ruled the country since 1986 and has brought it stability and put the country on a road to prosperity. But in recent years Museveni’s rule has become repressive and economic growth has stalled, many say by corruption. Elections will be held on Feb. 18 and Museveni is expected to win by a large margin.
The big questions are how Museveni will steer the country after that? What will he do with the proceeds of the oil that is about to begin pumping? And what will happen to the draconian anti-gay legislation. Museveni has discouraged it, but will he change tack during the campaign or after?
6) Zimbabwe will continue to hit the news throughout the coming year. President Robert Mugabe, 86 and in power since 1980, is determined to maintain his iron grip on the country. Mugabe has announced his intention to run for another five-year term in election, tentatively set for June 2011. Before that Zimbabwe will vote on a new constitution, probably in April.
Mugabe will be able to bankroll both campaigns with the millions of dollars that have gone into state coffers from the Marange diamond mine. The rich, alluvial deposit of diamonds was only discovered in 2006 and the state has seized the area in eastern Zimbabwe and is now selling the gemstones on the international market. Mugabe will be able to use the diamond money to fund lavish advertising campaigns on the state-controlled media as well as the violence that has become his hallmark.
How will Morgan Tsvangirai counter Mugabe's drive? Will Tsvangirai succeed in winning the popular vote again, as he did in the 2008 election? Will the crafty Mugabe succeed, again, in staying in power? What will bring stability and prosperity back to Zimbabwe. The year ahead may have the answers to some of these questions.
We at GlobalPost are looking forward to covering these Africa stories and more in 2011.