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Will 2012 be the Year of the African Despot, again?

Senegal's Wade plans to run for president, despite a constitutional ban. Zimbabwe's Mugabe is banning NGOs ahead of presidential polls in 2013. 

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Now begins the task of forming a government to rule Congo, a country of vast untapped natural mineral resources and precious little government oversight.

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More than 80 separate parties secured seats in the 500-seat parliament. Kabila’s party has the most with 63 (down from 111), and Tshisekedi’s party came in second with 41 seats.

Zimbabwe constitution?

Down south in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe has indicated that he will run for office yet again in 2013, after serving as prime minister and later as president for the past 32 years. A draft constitution, written up by a committee that includes opposition members in Mugabe’s own coalition government, forbids such a continuous time in office, but Mugabe insiders say the president will never sign the document in its present form.

"President Mugabe has already said he is contesting the next elections. As long as I am in Copac, there is no way we are going to allow a draft which is detrimental to my party [Zanu-PF] and its leader," said Mugabe supporter and Constitution Select Committee (Copac) co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana.

To prevent the possibility of the kind of civil protests occurring in Senegal, Mugabe’s government has banned 29 local and international aid groups, including Care International. The government accuses the aid groups of failing to register officially, while the aid groups contend that the bans are political intimidation ahead of next year’s polls. Aid workers worry that in a country that depends on foreign food imports and food aid for daily survival, any cutoff in aid could make thousands of poor Zimbabweans vulnerable to starvation.

Sacrifice in Malawi

In Malawi, concerns about President Bingu’s “creeping autocracy” and economic mismanagement has caused international donors, including the International Monetary Fund, to suspend loans and financial aid to Malawi. The country now has a $121 million shortfall in its current budget. President Bingu, in recent months, has jailed a human rights lawyer for calling on him to step down, jailed a journalist for taking picture of his house, and sent riot police to break up July 2011 demonstrations over fuel and food price hikes. At least 18 people died in the ensuing crackdown.

He also expelled Britain's high commissioner (ambassador) to Malawi when that diplomat said President Bingu was "becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism."

In an interview with the Guardian, President Bingu, a former World Bank economist, says he is no autocrat and blames "foreign elements" for trying to undermine his regime.

"I will leave Malawi better than I found it, but I am retiring in 2014. Is that not democracy? What demonstration of democracy is there more than that? An autocrat has no timeframe, can stay forever."

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