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I have been paying particular attention this past week to the following:
Nigerians head to the polls this weekend for the presidential election following last Saturday’s vote for the National Assembly. Voter turnout last Saturday appears to have been surprisingly low in many parts of the country. However, it is unclear whether this was the result of the polling having been postponed for a week, concern about violence, or relative indifference to the outcome of National Assembly elections. Certainly, there is likely to be more interest in the contest for the presidency and for the governors. Asch Harwood and I recently published an article on Foreign Affairs’ website that examines some of the aspects of the elections and their potential outcomes. Although I will follow the voting closely over the weekend, I doubt that we will know before some time next week whether it was free and fair with credible results.
Alassane Ouattara took custody of Laurent Gbagbo on Monday and ended the standoff in Abidjan. As Ouattara assumes full control of Ivory Coast, he will have to negotiate numerous issues facing the country, including the potential International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation. This week, CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Jendayi Frazer and I discussed Ivory Coast during a CFR.org sponsored media conference call. A recent article on Foreign Affairs’ website by Mike McGovern also addresses the nuances of the country’s conflict and discusses the potential ramifications of the foreign intervention used to oust Gbagbo—all cogent points to consider as calm returns to Abidjan but Ivory Coast’s future remains uncertain.
In Uganda, the ‘walk-to-work’ demonstrations continued yesterday in Kampala and elsewhere across the country. Reports indicate that police wounded main opposition leader Kizza Besigye with a rubber bullet, and authorities have arrested as many as 220 people on charges ranging from upholding traffic, to organizing illegal meetings, to fomenting violence. Rubber bullets, tear gas, and similar displays of force suggest the Museveni government is nervous. At this stage, it is unclear to me whether these demonstrations constitute a serious challenge to Museveni.
The ’Ocampo Six’ returned from their initial appearance at the ICC last week, and there are suggestions of a new political alliance forming ahead of the 2012 polls. Further, as neighboring Uganda experiences demonstrations related to high fuel and food prices, new data indicates concern over similar issues in Kenya: the majority (33 percent) of those Kenyans polled describe fuel costs, food prices, and poverty as the “main problem" facing the country. Nonetheless, there is no indication that the events in Uganda will be repeated in Kenya.