Ahead of Gabon’s general elections later this year, President Ali Bongo has engaged in a series of carrot-and-stick maneuvers designed to smooth the way for him to maintain power. But in many ways, Gabon’s electoral democracy is a thin veneer for a kinship-based political order at the center of which sits the Bongo family.
The European Union and U.S. often fixate on democratic elections as the basic foundation of political legitimacy. But in West African states such as Mali and Guinea, elections have led to contested outcomes or enabled authoritarian power grabs, profoundly unsettling the hopes of many in and outside the region for a more stable future.
Over the course of the past decade, Somaliland’s fortunes have drastically and irrevocably changed, raising hopes that engagement with foreign powers will translate into formal recognition. Unfortunately, recent violence between security forces and a local clan in the southeast show that things are never so straightforward.