Africa This Week: February 6, 2023

February 6, 2023

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

The iconic Zuma Rock just outside of Abuja, Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Nzenwa Chinomso (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.

The presidential front-runners include the nominees of the two biggest parties: Bola Tinuba from the governing “sort of left” All Progressives Congress Party (APC) and Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition “sort of right” People’s Democratic Party (PDP). In addition, Peter Obi from the Labour Party has gathered momentum among younger voters and is seen as a possible contender. Somewhat ironically, his supporters call themselves “Obidients,” despite positioning themselves as an anti-establishment movement.

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

Voice of America (February 6, 2023): HRW: Thick Veil of Violence’ Around Nigeria’s Elections

Wilfred Okiche and Eromo Egbejule, Al Jazeera (February 4, 2023): Nigeria’s Peter Obi started a movement. Can he become president?

Nick Westcott, The Africa Report (February 3, 2023): Oligarchs, Oil and Obi-dients: The battle for the soul of Nigeria

BBC (February 3, 2023): Nigeria election 2023: Who are the presidential candidates?

The Economist (February 2, 2023): Nigeria’s presidential race goes down to the wire

Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR (February 2, 2023): Gunmen destroy 800 ballot boxes in Nigeria, the latest in a series of attacks

Al Jazeera (February 2, 2023): Fuel, cash shortages cause fury among Nigerians ahead of election

Eswatini Parliamentary and Local Elections: August 2023 (due)

Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an absolute monarchy. The country does hold parliamentary elections, but the parliament does not actually have much power, and the elections are tightly controlled, without much choice for voters.

Daily Maverick (February 3, 2023): Thulani Maseko’s murder exposes the political wrangling hobbling Eswatini’s march to democracy

Liberia Presidential and Legislative Elections: October 10, 2023

Liberia’s last elections, in 2017, brought the first peaceful transition of power since 1944, but the country still faces some challenges as it seeks to consolidate democracy. President George Weah, a former football player, won the last presidential election in 2017 and plans to run for another term.

Al Jazeera (January 31, 2023): Under pressure Liberia President George Weah to seek second term

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, with former opposition leader Félix Tshisekedi being declared the winner of the presidential poll (even though election observers from the highly-trusted Catholic Church said their data indicated a victory for another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu). 

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, and with increased interest in electronic vehicles and other technologies that require rare earths, this has become a subject of increased interest internationally. 

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.

Patrick Ilunga and AFP, The East African (February 4, 2023): Pope avoids thorny issue of elections in ‘Pilgrimage of Peace’

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.

Khalid Abdelaziz, Reuters (January 31, 2023): Explainer: How regional power play complicates Sudan’s political transition

International Crisis Group (January 31, 2023): Sudan: Rebooting an Endangered Transition

South Sudan Elections: December 2024 (proposed)

South Sudan plans to hold elections in December 2024, after multiple delays, the first since independence in 2011. Salva Kiir had been president of the semi-autonomous region while it was still part of Sudan, and he remained in office following independence. The legislature’s mandate expired in 2015 (it had been elected in 2010, before independence), and has been extended several times. 

Fred Oluoch at The East African notes: “Despite optimism from government operatives, South Sudan faces challenges in holding credible and peaceful elections and may need external support in areas such as election administration, security, voter education and outreach, and dispute resolution.” 

Additional election delays are possible.

Ngala Killian Chimtom, Crux (February 6, 2023): Pope in South Sudan unleashes hope for future beyond tribalism

Fred Oluoch, The East African (February 5, 2023): UN to advise South Sudan on best practice for polls preparations

Past Africa Elections

Tanzania General Elections: October 28, 2020

Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), has been in power since independence, and has won every election since multiparty elections began in the 90s. The country took an authoritarian turn under John Magufuli, who was elected president in 2015. 

However, following Magufuli’s death in 2021, the new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has opened up the political space. She lifted a ban on opposition rallies and secured the release of Freedman Mbowe, leader of the main opposition Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema). In addition, Chadema’s vice chair, Tundu Lissu, has returned from exile. There is hope that Tanzania will continue to move toward greater freedom and democracy. 

The Citizen (February 6, 2023): Samia’s leadership style in focus as CCM clocks 46 years

Nicodemus Minde, The Conversation (February 3, 2023): Samia Suluhu Hassan is reforming Tanzania – it’s winning her fans but boosting the opposition

Regional Analysis

Shannon Bond, NPR (February 1, 2023): A pro-Russian social media campaign is trying to influence politics in Africa

Colin P. Clarke, New York Times (January 31, 2023): Russian Mercenaries Are Destabilizing Africa

Joseph Siegle and Candace Cook, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (January 31, 2023): Africa’s 2023 Elections: Democratic Resiliency in the Face of Trials

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 has talked about holding long-delays general elections in July, but additional delays are possible. 

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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