2008 was a year that saw some parts of Africa involved in conflicts. The year also proved that democratic change of leadership is still elusive in many countries on the continent. This was clearly evident in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
At the beginning of the year, Kenya was in the news for the wrong reasons. Following hugely contested elections, the country descended into tribal anarchy and massacres in different parts of the East African country that had hitherto had been regarded as an island of stability in a region known for conflicts and civil strife.
The elections which were contested by Raila Odinga who was widely believed to be the favourite candidate, created a serious test for Kenya’s democratic credentials.
The incumbent Mwai Kibaki was hastily sworn in after being controversially announced winner. The tribal massacres pitting mainly the Kikuyu against the Luo was finally put to an end after a power sharing formula was worked out leading to the formation of government of national Unity.
Raila Odinga was appointed executive Prime Minister while the other presidential candidate Kalonzo Musyoka assumed the Vice presidency with Kibaki retaining his position.
The Kenya post election violence served as a wake up call for all who had thought that the country was immune from such disaster.
It in a way was an opportunity to seriously look at the latent tribal animosity in most of Africa that is always only waiting for a spark for it to ignite into a fireball of massacres.
The Kenyan post election violence situation was replicated in Zimbabwe when the ageing Robert Mugabe manipulated the election process to retain power.
The ZANU-PF long serving leader ensured that the opposition of Morgan Tvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) did not claim the much anticipated electoral victory.
The campaigning in Zimbabwe was marked by brutality meted out to opposition activists by pro-ZANU-PF “war veterans”, some of them too young to have been born during the liberation struggle of the seventies.
After refusing to be party to an election re-run, Tvangirai later participated in power sharing talks brokered by former South African President Thambo Mbeki. However unlike the Kenyan scenario, the talks have since stalled and no workable power sharing formula was reached.
Coup in Mauritania
The North Wes African country witnessed a military take over this year when the President tried to sack the head of the elite presidential guard.
The democratically elected President of Mauritania Sidi Ould Cheick Abdallahi was put into detention by the military after he tried to dismiss the top military leaders. He was replaced by Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz.
Also in the news this year was the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where force loyal to Major General Laurent Nkunda made several military gains in the volatile country.
The National Congress for the Defence of the People was at one point this year poised to take the strategic town of Goma but later declared a unilateral ceasefire.
Later on the CNDP and the Congolese government agreed to hold direct peace talks aimed at addressing the root causes of the conflict in eastern Congo.
The talks brokered by the United Nations special envoy to the Great Lakes Olesugun Obasanjo are still ongoing in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
As the year came to an end the long and winding peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lords Resistance Army (LRA) of Joseph Kony failed to reach a conclusion lading to renewed fighting.
Uganda, DR Congo and Sudan armies are now pursuing the LRA in the DR Congo national park of Garamba.
As the year came to an end, junior officers in Guinea staged a coup following the death of long serving Dictator Lansana Conte.
The junior officers led by Captain Mousa Dadis Camara took power ousting “corrupt” politicians loyal to the fallen Conte. Camara promised to restore democracy in two years.