Africa This Week: January 16, 2023

January 16, 2023

A weekly review of news and analysis of elections in Africa, usually posted on Mondays and occasionally updated throughout the week.

Porto-Novo, the seat of Benin’s legislature. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Élisée.Adad (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Nigeria General Elections: February 25, 2023

Nigeria, the “Giant of Africa,” as Nigerians call the continent’s most populous country, has a history of military coups, and since the return to civilian rule, vote-rigging and violence have plagued elections. While the 2015 polls – which handed the opposition its first-ever victory – were considered credible, international and Nigerian observers found that the 2019 polls fell short, with low turnout, fraud, and violence. The country is in the midst of several security crises.

Nigeria is the second-biggest oil and gas producer in Africa, and also arguably has the biggest economy on the continent.

Anthony Osae-Brown, Bloomberg (January 16, 2023): Poll Leader in Nigeria Presidential Election Pledges Debt Revamp

Timothy Obiezu, Voice of America (January 16, 2023): Nigeria Christian Group Condemns Gruesome Murder of Priest, Church Attack

Mohammed Momoh, The East African (January 14, 2023): Nigeria set for presidential polls but insecurity threatens process

Ruth Olurounbi, Bloomberg (January 12, 2023): 71 Million Young Nigerians Have Registered to Vote in Next Month’s Election

Chris Ewokor, BBC News (January 10, 2023): Nigeria elections 2023: Election commission warns violence could halt elections

Gambia Local Elections: May 13, 2023

In December 2016, The Gambia began a remarkable transition to democracy. Citizens removed dictator Yahya Jammeh – who had come to power in a coup and ruled with an iron fist for 22 years – peacefully, via the ballot box, in a surprising result. The country then began the process of establishing democracy and recovering from Jammeh’s brutal dictatorship, and that process continues. 

AFP (January 16, 2023): Swiss Prosecutors Nearing Decision On Gambian Ex-minister

AFP (January 10, 2023): Gambian Pro-democracy Activist Killed In 2016 Honoured At Last

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Zimbabwe is due to hold general elections in July 2023. They will be the second since the 2017 coup that led to the fall of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s longtime dictator, who left a legacy of gross economic mismanagement and political repression. Democracy continues to face many challenges in Zimbabwe, and the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, governs in an authoritarian, repressive manner.

The Zimbabwean (January 16, 2023): Zimbabwe’s upcoming general elections test for Commonwealth readmission

Reuters (January 15, 2023): Zimbabwe police arrest 25 opposition members ahead of presidential election

Voice of America (January 10, 2023): Some Zimbabweans Fear Violence Will Taint Upcoming Elections

Sudan General Elections: 2023 (following coup – delays possible)

Sudan plans to hold general elections in 2023, the culmination of a transition to democracy that began with the July 2019 removal of dictator Omar al-Bashir following several months of protests. Al-Bashir was removed in a military coup, and a junta ruled briefly, but entered into an agreement with a coalition of opposition groups to transition the country to democracy, which has been rocky, to say the least.

However, another coup in October 2021 returned Sudan to military rule and produced a standstill. In 2022, the military signed yet another deal with political groups, but many stakeholders have rejected the deal. The road ahead remains unclear.

Hala Al-Karib, Al Jazeera (January 11, 2023): Sudan should not settle for anything other than true democracy

Gabon Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Gabon is due to hold a presidential election in August 2023. Although the country does hold multi-candidate elections, the Bongo family has been in power for over 50 years. The regime remains repressive. But the ruling family has faced challenges in recent years. In 2018, President Ali Bongo Ondimba (who succeeded his father in 2009) had a stroke, and in January 2019, military officers attempted a coup.

Despite the Bongo family’s power, election results have been close in recent years. In the last presidential election in 2016, Bongo was declared the winner with 49.8 percent of the vote, compared to 48.2 percent for opposition leader Jean Ping.

Ndi Eugene Ndi, The East African (January 11, 2023): Gabon names VP and Prime Minister ahead of elections

Ama Tanoh and Katarina Hoije, Bloomberg (January 10, 2023): OPEC-Member Gabon Gets First Woman Vice President Ahead of Vote

Togo Legislative and Regional Elections: December 2023 (due)

While Togo holds elections, the Gnassingbé family has controlled the country for 60 years and governs in a repressive manner.

AFP (January 14, 2023): Togo’s Opposition Holds Rare Rally In The Capital

Democratic Republic of the Congo Presidential and Legislative Elections: December 20, 2023

The DRC’s last elections, in December 2018, took place after multiple delays and were mired in controversy and dispute. Nonetheless, they did produce the first peaceful transfer of power in the history of the country’s independence.

The election commission declared opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi the winner of the presidential poll, but the Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and is a highly trusted institution in the country, said that their data indicated a victory for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu.

When Kabila’s chosen successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, was polling too poorly for Kabila to credibly rig the election for him, Kabila cut a deal with Tshisekedi. The legislative elections – also highly disputed – produced a majority for Kabila’s coalition. Major opposition figures Moïse Katumbi and Jean-Pierre Bemba were barred from the polls and spent the election cycle outside the country, but both have returned.

The DRC faces numbers political and security crises, exacerbated by conflicts over massive mineral wealth (by some estimates, the country has untapped reserves worth $24 trillion). Due to its size and central location, conflicts from neighboring countries spill over into the DRC. The horrific conflicts happening in the eastern part of the country send shockwaves through the entire region.

Reuters (January 15, 2023): Islamic State claims Congo church attack

France24 (January 12, 2023 – video): In DR Congo, the mammoth task of registering voters

Chad General Elections: October 2024 (additional delays possible due to coup situation)

Chad held a presidential election on April 11, 2021. President Idriss Déby, who seized power in a rebellion in 1990, won a sixth term. However, on April 20, 2021, he was killed by rebels while fighting on the front lines. His son, 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby, declared himself interim leader, backed by the military. He dissolved parliament and promised elections within 18 months, by December 2022. However, it is unclear when the elections will actually happen.

Although the country holds elections, there has never been a change in power by a free or fair vote, and elections are riven by lengthy delays, violence, and fraud.

Chadian politics are taking place in the context of instability and insecurity throughout the Sahel region, which could increase as France winds down Operation Barkhane, its counterterrorism operation in the region. Russian mercenaries are stepping in to fill the void and plunder the region’s resources, leading to higher levels of violence.

Yamingué Bétinbaye, Remadji Hoinathy, Allah-Kauis Neneck, and Babouh Tih-Kwada Elisabeth, U.S. Institute of Peace (January 10, 2023): The U.S. Role in Furthering Chad’s Democratic Transition

Past Africa Elections

Benin Legislative Elections: January 8, 2023

Benin had been a stable democracy until 2016, when President Patrice Talon started the country down a more authoritarian path. The opposition was exuded from the 2019 legislative elections. However, they were able to run this year, and won 28 out of 109 seats. 

The next presidential election is due in 2026 and it is unclear whether Talon will pursue another term.

Reuters (January 14, 2023): Benin constitutional court affirms election win for ruling coalition

AFP (January 13, 2023): Benin’s ruling coalition won election, constitutional court says

APA (January 12, 2023 – in French): Legislative elections in Benin: opposition rejects provisional results

Reuters (January 11, 2023): Benin opposition party wins seats in parliament after more open election

Equatorial Guinea Snap General Elections: November 20, 2022

Equatorial Guinea held elections in November 2022. Teodoro Obiang, who has been in power since 1979, was declared winner with 97 percent of the vote and therefore the election was widely considered to be a sham. The regime is highly repressive and human rights violations happen regularly.

AFP (January 16, 2023): Equatorial Guinea dissident dies in prison

Regional Analysis

Christopher Condon, Matthew Hill, and Prinesha Naidoo, Bloomberg (January 14, 2023): Yellen Heads to Africa With US Seeking to Counter China’s Influence

Ross Harvey, Mail and Guardian (January 12, 2023): Getting governance right in Africa in 2023

Human Rights Watch (January 12, 2023): Africa: Conflicts, Violence Threaten Rights

Africa Elections Coming Up in 2023

Seven countries in Africa are scheduled to elections that will determine who heads the government: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Gabon, Liberia, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In addition, Sudan plans to hold long-delays general elections in July, but additional delays are possible. 

Benin Legislative Elections: January 8, 2023

Djibouti Legislative Elections: February 24, 2023

Nigeria General Elections: February 25, 2023

Nigeria, Gubernatorial Elections in Most States: March 11, 2023

Cameroon Indirect Senate Elections (by members of local councils): March 12, 2023

Mauritania Legislative and Local Elections: May 13, 2023

Gambia Local Elections: May 13, 2023

Mauritania Legislative and Local Runoffs: May 18, 2023

Sierra Leone Presidential and Legislative Elections: June 24, 2023

Mali Local Elections: June 2023 (due – delays possible)

Zimbabwe General Elections: July 2023 (due)

Sudan General Elections: July 2023 (tentative – delays possible)

Gabon Presidential, Legislative, and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Eswatini Parliamentary and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Gabon Legislative Elections: September 2023 (due)

Liberia Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2023

Mozambique Local Elections: October 11, 2023

Nigeria, Gubernatorial Elections in Imo State, Kogi State, and Bayelsa State: November 11, 2023

Madagascar Presidential Election: October 2023 (due)

Mali Legislative Elections: October 2023 (due – delays possible)

Democratic Republic of the Congo Presidential and Legislative Elections: December 20, 2023

Togo Legislative and Regional Elections: December 2023 (due)

Côte d’Ivoire Local Elections (due in 2023)

Comoros Gubernatorial Elections (due in 2023)

Ghana Local Elections (due in 2023)

Guinea-Bissau Local Elections (due in 2023)

Guinea Local Elections (due in 2023 – delays possible to to coup situation)

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