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Five African stories you may have missed during Egypt's revolt

Street protests in Gabon, a punishing stalemate in Ivory Coast, a coming election in Uganda: there is plenty of news even as Africans remain glued to the Egypt revolt. Some of it may affect the price of your next steaming cup of cocoa.

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But south of the Sahara, Internet penetration – the percentage of the population who use the Internet regularly – is still quite low. It’s just 6.4 percent in Gabon, compared with 21 percent in Egypt and 34 percent in Tunisia. A revolution organized by word of mouth is much easier to control than one that goes viral over Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and the text messages of cellphones.

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In Uganda, national elections will be held on Feb. 18, with long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni widely expected to hold onto power. The runup to this election has been peaceful, thus far, but opposition candidate Kizza Besigye has warned Museveni’s ethnic group – the Banyankole – of a widespread anger among other ethnic groups who believe that Museveni has favored his own ethnic group to the exclusion of others.

Uganda has slightly better access to Internet than Gabon, with 9.6 percent of its 33 million people using the Internet regularly, and Ugandan journalists have a slightly stronger tradition of independent and critical coverage of their elected leaders. But experts like Sandra Adong Oder of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria say the regime of President Museveni has effectively neutralized opposition parties and politicized civil society groups, making it difficult for any latent anger to coalesce around any one particular opposition leader or party. (Good to have link to our Weekly story up on website to accompany this story).

Ethnically based rebellions in the north, particularly that of the Lord’s Resistance Army – led by self-proclaimed prophet Joseph Kony, who faces human rights charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague – also have strengthened the hand of Museveni, who argues that Uganda needs an authoritarian ruler such as himself in order to prevent ethnic differences from pulling the country apart.

In Ivory Coast, the political stalemate between President-elect Alassane Ouattara and the non-yielding former President Laurent Gbagbo, continues with no signs of resolution.

Elections held in late November found Mr. Ouattara to be the winner of a runoff with Mr. Gbagbo, and most election observers, including those from the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union, agree that Ouattara’s 54 percent victory over Gbagbo’s 46 percent should make him the country’s leader. But Gbagbo’s supporters – who include the nation’s armed forces and a sizable majority of the citizens in the mainly Christian south of the country, along with the country’s capital of Abidjan – refuse to honor Ouattara’s victory.


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