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The reservations were lifted on 27 January The MLC signed the agreement on 14 January, and at the same time announced it would refuse to join a unity government. It had concerns about the two main actors Majority and Rassemblement co-managing the transition without third-party oversight. Moreover, it calls for a completely new voter roll and for presidential, legislative and provincial elections to be held simultaneously. Although power-sharing is not new in DRC, the creation of a domestic mechanism to monitor election preparation alongside an opposition-led government in principle amounted to a fundamental power rebalancing.

In other words, it would have forced the president and his political allies into an uneasy cohabitation with their rivals. Importantly, a splintered opposition with low levels of domestic support, many of whose leaders were in exile, was far from ready to confront the Majority.

At different stages several key opposition parties privately acknowledged that they would need two years to prepare politically for elections. The agreement was widely and rightly welcomed. Still, it contained several inherent deficiencies: A generalised institutional inertia — exacerbated by the fact that most potential candidates are complicit in and benefit from the prolonged glissement — compounded these problems. Finally, with the signing of the agreement, domestic and international pressure on the regime noticeably diminished.

Special Envoy Tom Perriello has not been replaced. The Kabila government and the opposition also heavily lobbied the incoming Trump administration. Hide Footnote This allowed it to undermine implementation while the opposition, plagued by internal dissent, lost its focus. On 1 February , Etienne Tshisekedi, the only opposition leader with the charisma to bring massive crowds onto the streets, passed away. His death fundamentally changed power dynamics in favour of the regime and left the Rassemblement in disarray. Hide Footnote Several members joined a dissident group dissident Rassemblement , led by Joseph Olenghankoy.

A formal party conference has yet to be held. A Belgium-based diplomat with knowledge of the situation said: Crisis Group email correspondence, October Implementation suffered another blow when the Catholic Church — under increasing pressure from the Majority — abruptly stopped its mediation and gave the political initiative back to President Kabila. Hide Footnote Exploiting both opposition disarray and international inattention and passivity, the Majority quickly moved to interpret the agreement in its favour.

On 7 April, following a few days of consultations boycotted by the Rassemblement, President Kabila appointed Bruno Tshibala as prime minister of a new, extended government. Tshibala had been evicted from the UDPS the previous month after joining the dissident Rassemblement. The Saint Silvester agreement stated that the prime minister be proposed by the Rassemblement. Clumsy communication about his absence, contributed to confusion. Security forces were deployed to deter protesters in several cities as a result, the marches failed to mobilise significant crowds.

The inclusion of dissident Rassemblement members in government left others out in the cold.

Straight Talk Africa Term Limits and Politics of Succession

Vital Kamerhe, who had risked his credibility as an opposition leader by participating in the AU dialogue, got only a single post in the new government to the dissatisfaction of many in his party. He had three members in the Badibanga government. More importantly, Kamerhe was thought to be a prime contender to become prime minister or chair of the CNSA.

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Hide Footnote In July, he declined the post of CNSA vice president but, having made excessive overtures to the Majority, subsequently found other major opposition platforms, including the Rassemblement, initially hesitant to accept him back in their midst. The inclusion of newcomers also affected the Majority. The Union for the Development of Congo UDCO , one of the few remaining parties in the Majority with a strong position in Katanga, lost its sole senior government position. Consequently, the influential Jean-Claude Masangu resigned as party president. None of these expressions of protest had much of an impact.

The Saint Sylvester agreement had been hollowed out, with no semblance of power-sharing and no platform for continued talks. The signatories have not implemented provisions to revitalise the electoral commission and undertake confidence building measures. Nor have they adopted legislation to formally establish the monitoring council. The conversation among the government, electoral commission and monitoring council CNSA — all of which are dominated by the regime — has come to resemble a monologue. By the end of August , the electoral commission, the government and CNSA launched the evaluation of the electoral process in Kananga.

Hide Footnote This has allowed the electoral commission to publish its long-awaited electoral calendar, with presidential polls scheduled for 23 December However, the current trio has little legitimacy. Over the course of , the Majority has outmanoeuvred both the domestic opposition and international actors. It controls the budget and state institutions, including the electoral commission, and dominates both the narrative and the pace of the political process.

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Despite a clearly one-sided implementation of the agreement, it has managed to project the appearance of reason and constructive engagement. This resonates with some international actors eager for any semblance of progress and seeking entry points for engagement, notwithstanding widespread scepticism that the regime intends to leave power or organise credible elections.

It is far stronger than the divided opposition, has suffered no major defection since and is more focused. Its internal coherence seemingly is based on a mix of fear, money and opportunism.

Hide Footnote However, occasionally this coherence faces a test. The PPRD leadership sees the thresholds as essential for its electoral strategy — getting rid of the small parties. The proposed law introduces a threshold of 3 per cent of the national vote for a party to get any seats in the national assembly and 5 per cent for the provincial assemblies.

The presidential family is central but so are others in the political system and the security forces. Some recently installed officials at both national and provincial levels, lacking legitimacy and sensing their tenure in power might be short-lived, have incentives to exploit their positions for personal gain.

Katumbi is a particular irritant; his conflict with the regime is both personal and strategic as he potentially could emerge as a serious threat.


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Accordingly, the Majority is determined to stop their former ally from building momentum and wants to make an example of him to stop others from decamping. So far, despite announcing several times that he would return to the DRC, Katumbi remains in exile in Europe, where the threat he presents to the regime is much reduced.

Because the Saint Sylvester is a Congolese agreement, international actors have no formal framework allowing them to push for its implementation and have failed to engage politically in a coherent manner since its signing. This is regrettable as there is evidence — notably the very achievement of the agreement — that the regime can give ground when under concerted pressure. Instead, it shows no sign of compromise. It has no grand strategy to stay in power, but each additional month in power represents a small gain.

When one fails, another steps in. Crisis Group interview, Congolese academic, Brussels, March Hide Footnote When its initial attempt in to amend the presidential term-limits provision in the constitution was blocked by popular protest and dissent within its ranks, it turned to a glissement. Hide Footnote were immediately dismissed as pointless by the church and the opposition. The issue of the electoral timeline has proved vexing for international actors and the opposition alike.

Genuine technical, budgetary and security reasons for delay are compounded by regime manoeuvres to further postpone a vote. The electoral commission, led by Corneille Nangaa, has steadily continued its activities, some constructive, others designed to delay and distract. In and , it worked on the necessary update to the voter roll but took far longer than in previous elections; by September , it had registered some 42 million voters.

Voter registration in these remaining provinces started early September and is to last at least until 31 January Voter registration began on 31 July — before the start of the AU dialogue — and proceeded in different phases covering the entire country. The expected total number of voters is 45 million.

At a later stage, diaspora voters will also be registered. In comparison, registering On 5 November , after months of dithering, the electoral commission announced that elections would be held on 23 December and the newly elected president inaugurated on 12 January The CENI immediately warned that respecting the calendar would require meeting several budgetary and legal conditions and also depends on the external support to the process. Hide Footnote etary crisis, which is likely to become the next pretext for delays. Despite promising in that it would fund the entire process, the government has yet to clarify what it has actually disbursed.

In the national budget, adopted on 14 November, Should it fail to do so, this will increase pressure on unenthusiastic donors, none of whom wants to be associated with what could turn out to be an unfair and non-credible process. This amount is rather low, compared to the general cost of the election and seems more oriented toward the support of the CENI.

Thus far international support has mostly benefited civil society rather than the electoral process. The longer the delay, the more space the regime will have to exhaust a disorganised opposition. Besides, were a successor to Kabila acceptable to the regime to emerge, he or she inevitably would assume, ahead of the election campaign, a position of considerable financial strength in relation to an opposition with dwindling resources. Delaying the vote also gradually undermines the credibility and relevance of the current institutional and constitutional framework, which could lead regime supporters to declare it void as a pretext for holding a referendum to change it and allow Kabila to extend his tenure in office.

For the immediate future such a scenario remains unlikely and could provoke a split between Majority hardliners and a smaller faction that hopes to nominate a successor to Joseph Kabila. Hide Footnote But Kabila allies, occasionally float it as an option. We must move on to the Fourth Republic. Faced with regime intransigence, the Rassemblement is trying to regain the initiative. In July, it announced that it would renew efforts at popular mobilisation starting in October.

Hide Footnote The conclave included a call for citizens to stop recognising Kabila as president. Civil society organisations have taken their own initiatives since mid Any attempt to overthrow the constitutional regime imprescriptibly constitutes an infraction against the Nation and the State. Article 64 of the constitution translation by Constituteproject. Crisis Group interviews, diplomats, Brussels, July Hide Footnote Several civil society activists have proposed Dr Denis Mukwege, a respected campaigner against sexual violence, as a potential president for this period.

At this stage, focus has shifted anew to forging greater opposition unity. On 23 October, Vital Kamerhe and the UNC decided to pull out of the Tshibala government although the minister concerned, Pierre Kangudia Mbayi refused to obey his party and remains as minister for the budget. In the same month, youth activist platforms, including Lucha, organised protests in a number of cities; several activists were arrested and, during 30 October protests in Goma, five people were killed, including a policeman.

Hide Footnote Dynamics between the opposition and civil society platforms changed somewhat when on 15 November the Rassemblement joined a call initiated by social movements for countrywide protests against the electoral calendar. As was the case with previous attempts, the initiative failed to gather momentum. Hide Footnote Authorities prohibit protests almost systematically, often accompanied by stark warnings by police officials.

In response, on 16 November, the EU delegation joined by the U. Although the church has stepped away from direct mediation and is unlikely to reengage soon, it remains important. As mediator, it gave the agreement credibility, but being so closely involved sullied its reputation. Crisis Group interview, senior cleric, Kinshasa, September Hide Footnote The document, which the opposition often refers to, assesses the political impasse and faults the political class.

It warns of, but does not directly call for, massive street protests. From early , the Church, targeted by violence in Kasai but also in Kinshasa, has stopped short of calling for popular mobilisation. It was the only organisation involved in a serious assessment of the voter registration process and has a large-scale civic education project. In November, the church published partial results of its observation of voter registration, citing several irregularities, in particular during the registration of minors.

The government disputed the information about police repression. Since , the deepening political impasse in Kinshasa has been accompanied by rising tensions throughout the country. Insurgents in North and South Kivu, Kongo Central and the Kasai region all have exploited the national deadlock to justify their actions.

For now, these dynamics appear isolated, but they are increasing in frequency and point to the risks of prolonged unrest. Hide Footnote Humanitarian consequences have been considerable, as reflected in the large number of new internally displaced persons and refugees. The other countries for which such a response is currently activated are Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This situation presents a significant threat to stability in countries to the east, south and west of DRC. The depth and breadth of the political crisis makes the current situation far more perilous than the M23 crisis from to Security forces also are a major source of violence and remain the most frequent perpetrators of human rights violations.

Their response often is vastly disproportionate. The violent conflict in Kasai region, which began early with an apparent local dispute pitting a traditional chief, Jean-Pierre Pandi — known by his tribal name, the Kamuina Nsapu — against state authorities. In , the government split the two Kasai provinces into five: Hide Footnote Tensions escalated and Pandi was killed in an incident with the security forces.

As a result, militia groups started to operate under his banner, setting-up roadblocks and attacking state buildings and officials, including the electoral commission. As violence escalated, it became clear that complex and poorly understood local dynamics were becoming intertwined with the national crisis. Indeed, the incident came in the context of regime efforts to pressure traditional chiefs for support and thus broaden its reach.

By mid, there appeared to be over 60 militia groups operating in the Kasai, some related to the Kamuina Nsapu, others allied with the government and still others who have emerged from the chaos. Both government forces and militia have used extreme violence, including against civilians. Several sources claim the Bana Mura are closely linked to local security officials. Intense violence spread rapidly; at its height March to July , the conflict covered parts of five provinces and affected wider areas.

Hide Footnote To date, the crisis has displaced roughly 1. The largest population is in Uganda , , followed by Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi. Hide Footnote Approximately 35, Congolese fled to Angola as a result of the Kasai violence; in response, Luanda bolstered its military presence at the border. Hide Footnote The government has come under considerable regional and international pressure due to this violence and associated human rights abuses.

Instability has spread to other provinces, severely stretching the security services. Provincial conflicts have been a permanent feature of DRC since the end of the civil war in , as armed groups fight over territory and resources and use local and national grievances to draw support from individuals and communities. The regime has largely adapted to the situation, and several regional states have profited from it.

In addition, regime figures have fanned the flames of violence, possibly as part of a deliberate strategy, but also to opportunistically reinforce their local base. Hide Footnote Today, there are signs including their own declarations that some of the currently disparate insurgencies intend to join up. It asserts that armed struggle is the only way to remove President Kabila and organise elections.

This could seriously escalate the crisis, potentially triggering ever more brutal government crackdowns. In addition to the Kasai region, the provinces affected by these dynamics are mostly concentrated in the east: Hide Footnote Lastly, the strategic Kongo Central province, west of Kinshasa, has also seen tensions rise throughout Kinshasa has also been affected and an incursion in August , linked to the tension in Kongo Central province, caused at least 23 casualties in August. His whereabouts are unknown since. Ethnic identity is an important underlying factor in local and provincial conflict dynamics and is the main way armed group leaders mobilise members.

The group finds fertile ground in an identity discourse that traces its roots to the historic Kongo kingdom, as well as in widespread socio-economic frustrations. Its area of operations covers South Kivu, Maniema and Tanganyika, affecting several mining areas, including the gold-mining operations of the Banro corporation in Maniema province. In late September , the alliance advanced on Uvira, the second largest city in South Kivu. Hide Footnote This would have been the first time a major town had fallen to rebels since and would have given the coalition added aura.

A special case is Beni territory North Kivu , which since October , has suffered a string of particularly vicious attacks — generally attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces ADF. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated dramatically over the past year. The UN estimates the number of displaced at 4. Fighting has forced refugees into neighbouring Zambia and Angola. The proliferation of security crises has stretched the capacity of the army and police, a challenge compounded by the drop in real salaries.

In a whack-a-mole-like dynamic, when the army sent reinforcements to the Kasai region from the Kivus, armed group activity increased in the Kivus. Hide Footnote Pressure from various armed groups has compelled the army to focus on protecting major cities, leaving much of the countryside — including lucrative mining areas — to militias. Urban insecurity also increased considerably following several major prison breaks in Then on 11 June, prisoners escaped in Beni, North Kivu.

In both cases the prisons were attacked by armed groups presumably attempting to free their comrades. Hide Footnote The generalised frustration of the pauperised population could result in further urban violence and even insurgency. Thus far, however, police and army have maintained their internal cohesion. Hide Footnote Troops and policemen have been rotated successfully to different theatres and lines of command have held.

Although nearly all international training of security forces has been halted, new recruits for both the army and police have been trained and deployed. Crisis Group interview, regional diplomat, Kinshasa, September In , the police recruited approximately new policemen for each of the 26 provinces. Crisis Group telephone interview, Congolese police officer, Nairobi, October Hide Footnote Another important factor is the further militarisation of the police force, which is now headed by General Amuli Bahigwa, previously in charge of army operations and intelligence.

To a large degree, DRC is already in a de facto state of emergency. Rule of law has been deeply eroded through the political use of the justice system. Legal permission to stage political protests is nearly impossible to obtain. International journalists and researchers find it increasingly difficult to operate in the country and many have been expelled or had their visa requests denied. If violence continues to spread or if elements of the security forces mutiny or join the opposition, Kabila might decide to declare a formal state of emergency, further postponing the elections.

Hide Footnote This would be a risky gambit, however. Security forces are already stretched thin. Banking on them to maintain control while excluding a political track could deprive the regime of options to deal with spreading insurgencies. Hide Footnote Such a scenario would also make it increasingly difficult for peacekeepers to operate. With the stalemate deepening, both opposition and regime have turned to outside actors for support. The former pins its hopes essentially on the UN and traditional Western donors. The government has chiefly reached out to African leaders while maintaining good relations with Russia and China.

International apprehension over deepening authoritarianism dates back to the election and was reflected in the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework PSCF and successive UN mandates granting the special representative of the Secretary-General SRSG a political mandate, though these have yet to prompt concerted action.

Likewise, African governments and regional organisations have been concerned during periods of violence and engaged in mediation, but the government has been effective at playing the nationalist card to oppose foreign interference.

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Three Critical African Elections

Opposition leaders have devoted considerable time lobbying Western powers. In and , both the EU and the U. In , both the EU and the U. As regime confidence has grown in , Western powers have taken a more reserved approach, leading to much reduced pressure. In May, the EU sanctioned several more individuals, most for their involvement in the violence in the Kasai.

The timing of this initiative was not helpful, however, because it coincided with a regional diplomatic mission, and African diplomats felt it detracted from their message. Hide Footnote Feeling exposed by a lack of leadership from Washington, the EU and its member states have since become more discreet. Hide Footnote This has also provided new space for differences among EU member states, some of whom are inclined to be highly critical of the DRC government, others less so. A June meeting in Lubumbashi between emissaries of the French President Emmanuel Macron and Joseph Kabila spurred concerns that France was preparing a less critical stance.

Belgium, a vocal critic over the last year, toned down its public rhetoric to some extent following regime pressure, but remains critical of the DRC government in the EU and other fora. In any case, the DRC government does not seem overly concerned by Western criticism. For example, it promoted the former Kinshasa police chief, General Kanyama, who had been sanctioned by both the EU and the U. Crisis Group interviews, diplomats, Kinshasa, September The political transition in the U. While her tone was forthright, this was presented by the Majority as a victory because it provided diplomatic cover for a further twelve months electoral delay.

The publication ten days after the visit of a calendar with elections scheduled for December has been disingenuously presented by the CENI as a concession to domestic and international pressure, because shortly before it had informally suggested pushing the timeframe back to mid Under those circumstances, despite recognising that the status quo represents a longer-term threat to regional security, Western capitals might well begin to put less energy into coordinating their diplomatic positions and concentrate on advancing more parochial including commercial interests.

Continued tension between the regime and international actors could push the latter to react quickly to events — including future obstacles affecting implementation of the electoral calendar — with little or no coordinated strategy. More broadly, Western policy could suffer from a lack of knowledge about events on the ground due to restrictions on international researchers and correspondents.

African powers have been engaged in managing the DRC crisis for several years, most prominently through the AU dialogue led by Edem Kodjo in Despite this engagement, they remain hesitant and to some degree divided in their approach.

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Western powers have usually been more critical of the DRC government, opening a strategic disconnect that has become a key impediment to concerted international action. Both sides have engaged in competing rhetoric on issues such as the adoption of sanctions by the EU and the U. An exception occurred at the October Luanda regional summit, where presidents of both Angola and Republic of Congo exerted strong pressure on Kabila, paving the way for the Saint Sylvester agreement.

Hide Footnote This represented a rare moment of convergence among international, regional and domestic dynamics that contributed to meaningful progress. The regime has sought to exploit this division and drive a wedge between Western and African positions. These efforts have symbolic value, demonstrating institutional legitimacy at a time of domestic challenge by showcasing the president and ministers meeting foreign leaders; they also generate diplomatic gains. Many African diplomats warn their political leadership that meeting with only one side can create an impression of bias, but that concern often is overtaken by political considerations.

Crisis Group interviews, regional diplomat, Kinshasa, September ; diplomats, Pretoria, September Hide Footnote Opposition leaders sought legitimacy as well by meeting African leaders but were less successful in than in previous years. They are struggling to engage with African leaders or even participate on the margins of regional summits. It stressed the need for rapid publication of the electoral calendar, the importance of early communication to sensitise the population, and the need for the government to properly fund the electoral commission. Crisis Group interview, diplomats, Pretoria, September From 28 September to 1 October, Moussa Faki, chairperson of the AU Commission, visited Kinshasa for consultations with all stakeholders, including the opposition.

The summit conclusions were in line with previous African positions. The AU and sub-region are thus active, but this has not yet been translated into effective political engagement. So far African powers have consistently supported the electoral process in their statements, and are under no illusion that further electoral delays risk more unrest. Hide Footnote Angola and the Republic of Congo in particular have reason to fear any unrest: Brazzaville sits across the Congo river from Kinshasa while Angola, facing its own economic difficulties and delicate political transition, shares a porous 2,km border with Congo.

The Kasai conflict already has spilled over into Angolan territory. Furthermore, African leaders do not feel empowered to shift the dynamics of the crisis, partly because their own coordination tools summits, diplomatic services are weak and poorly coordinated. A strong DRC could run counter to some of those interests. And competition among these countries over economic opportunities and access can further stymie joint political action.

Areas of competition include major projects such as the Grand Inga dam, the exploration of hydrocarbons in eastern DRC and regional logistical corridors toward South Africa, Tanzania, Angola and Kenya. And there are also the well-documented cases of Congolese resources transiting through neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Ending the Status Quo , 17 December African powers therefore have reasons, some justifiable some less so, to refrain from stronger and more coordinated action.

Zimbabwe was united. This election has divided us again

Along with differences of approach between them and the Europeans, and in the absence of major regional conflagration, this favours the status quo and a passive approach. But as many working level African diplomats, and even ministers, acknowledge in private, there is a great risk of instability in further electoral delays and in the erosion of constitutional rule in the DRC.

The situation in DRC is fundamentally blocked, with a regime determined to stay in power holding a stronger hand than its opposition and with outside actors appearing both discouraged and divided. The most likely scenario is a prolonged glissement with instability rising although not necessarily threatening the regime elite.

Still, government control is weak and weakening. It eventually could face a more coherent challenge, expressed through political mechanisms, street protests, insurgency or a combination of the three. Role and determination of the ruling party. The defeat of incumbent presidents by opposition challengers in countries such as Ghana, Mauritius and Senegal remains the exception not the rule. That's mainly due to the powerful monolithic parties such as President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in , helped by its close ties with the Central Intelligence Organisation and the Army, as well as its stranglehold on business.

In Mozambique, as in Namibia, the long-serving ruling party does not face a serious threat from the opposition but respects the constitution and imposes term limits on its presidents. But FRELIMO militants and opposition activists thought Guebuza would use another term to expand his personal business interests and those of his children. So far they have won the day. Kagame repeats like a mantra that he will be leaving in , but always adds caveats: But there needs to be continuity and stability.

Therefore the challenge is how do we organise this change while at the same time ensuring continuity of what we have achieved and retaining the stability of the country? The ambitious but careless leader can pay an extremely high price. Niger's President Mamadou Tandja orchestrated a third term and changed the constitution in But less than a year later, in February , he was overthrown by Colonel Salou Djibo. General David Sejusa's open letter in late May about Uganda's deepending succession crisis and the military's opposition to the fast rise of President Yoweri Museveni's son Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba forced the Museveni family out of the succession closet.

In June, Muhoozi denied there was a plot to install him but keeps the promises vague: Uganda is not a monarchy where leadership is passed on from father to son. He told our sister publication Jeune Afrique in October If I say the opposite, it will equally be a problem because people will say that I am hanging on to power. With elections in Algeria planned for April and President Abdelaziz Bouteflika just returned from France in July after being hospitalised for a stroke in April, the security forces hold the keys to a post-Bouteflika future. In , Bouteflika said he would not seek another term, but the ruling party has not yet sought to identify and select a candidate.

The popular opposition to President Abdoulaye Wade's third-term bid — from groups like Y'en a Marre We've Had Enough — and attempts to prepare his son Karim to take over in show how popular opposition can defeat some leaders' efforts to perpetuate their hold on power. Early this year, Burkinabe activists formed M37, an opposition platform based on the model of Senegal's M23, which successfully campaigned against a third term for President Wade. In Cameroon, President Paul Biya will be 85 when he is up for re-election again in October see page But he is haunted by the largest protests of his presidency, in , when people demonstrated against his changes to the constitution and the high cost of living.

The security forces killed around people in those protests. Now civic activists are threatening to take to the streets if the government raises the fuel price. He will remember that in neighbouring Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan was forced to abandon plans to cut the subsidy after mass protests. Plans to change the constitution usually suggest that a president wants to stay in power beyond his mandate, whether it be Thomas Yayi Boni in Benin or Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A constitution setting out term lim- its is often the main obstacle blocking aspiring presidents-for-life.

The constitution is the only impediment stopping Congo-Brazzaville's Denis Sassou-Nguesso from running for a third term in The AU's Abdullahi thinks the constitutional road to a life presidency is coming to an end: At their protests on 29 June in Ouagadougou, one banner was unambiguous: During the Arab Spring, Algeria's President Bouteflika of Algeria announced that he would implement fundamental reforms through a new constitution, a process which has since stalled.

He does not need to change the constitution again to run in because he already changed it in to run in as many elections as he likes. By promoting the political and business interests of their families, presidents can complicate their own successions. Handing power from father to son has not been accepted by the population while the president is living but has happened when a sitting president dies in office, as in Togo in and Gabon in or the Democratic Republic of Congo in Gabon's President Ali Ben Bongo raised a laugh at a London business conference in when he explained he was simply following his "father's profession" when he took over the presidency in Libreville.

But the stakes are deadly serious for the would-be dynasties.

Three Critical African Elections | Crisis Group

In Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo's grip on power ensures the dominance of his children and relatives in the political, military and business elite in Malabo. He had not chosen anyone to replace him from his family or the ruling Rassemblement du Peuple Togolais. Family politics continue to cause instability. The courts sentenced Kpatcha to jail for 20 years. The constitution does not bar Faure from running for a third term in And, so far, Sauvons le Togo and the Coalition Arc-en-Ciel have been unable to change the balance of power.

Although it's clear that most of the veteran presidents contemplating political successions over the next five years are scheming to prolong their grip on power, it is equally clear they will face a better organised and equipped opposition well able to exploit information technology and social media. Not only is popular resistance growing to the tired formula of dynastic politics still being planned in states such as Equatorial Guinea and Uganda, but people resent the chaos and repression that go along with such systems.

The political turmoil left in the wake of Ben Ali's and Mubarak's dynastic ambitions could provide a stark reality check for Malabo and Kampala.