Africa This Week: February 13, 2023

February 13, 2023

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

The main gate of the Osun-Osogbo Sacred Grove in southern Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Vitus Emmanuel Nnaemeka (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.

Ben Ezeamalu, The Africa Report (February 13, 2023): Nigeria 2023: Peter Obi winds down presidential campaign rally on a high note

The Conversation (February 13, 2023): Nigerian elections: Eight issues young people want the new government to address

Al Jazeera (February 13, 2023): How Nigerian youth are galvanising for upcoming presidential vote

Camillus Eboh, Reuters (February 13, 2023): Nigeria won’t use 240 new polling units due to insecurity – electoral commission

Chris Ewokor, BBC (February 12, 2023): Nigeria election 2023: Nigeria military denies coup plot claim ahead of poll

Leo Komminoth, African Business (February 10, 2023): How Nigerian startups could do more for democracy: The continent’s largest democracy hosts thousands of tech startups, but very few are involved in efforts to improve the electoral process

BBC News Pidgin (February 10, 2023): Nigeria 2023 election campaigns in fotos

Macdonald Dzirutwe, Reuters (February 9, 2023): Fuel and cash shortages rile Nigerian voters heading into election

Cameroon Indirect Senate Elections (by members of local councils): March 12, 2023 (presidential election due in 2025)

Cameroon holds elections, but President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982, most recently winning re-election in 2018. Elections in the country, including the most recent, have been marred by accusations of ballot-stuffing and intimidation of the opposition. The opposition claims Maurice Kamto actually won the election, and opposition supports have staged a number of protests, which the government answered with a harsh crackdown and hundreds of arrests, including the arrest of Kamto himself.

Cameroon is in the midst of several other crises. Anglophone separatists seek to form a new country called Ambazonia. The government has accused them of terrorism. The crisis is currently deadlocked, with neither side willing to make concessions, leaving half a million people displaced.

Moki Edwin Kindzeka, Voice of America (February 13, 2023): Cameroon Hails President’s 90th Birthday, Supporters Call for Another Term

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 (February 10, 2023): Canada and Commonwealth face difficult dilemma over Zimbabwe membership bid

Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg (February 8, 2023): Zimbabwe’s Opposition Would Win a Free And Fair Election, Survey Shows

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.

Reuters (February 13, 2023): Gabon president proposes cutting presidential mandate to five years

RFI (February 12, 2023 – in French): Gabon: No EU observers for the next elections

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. 

Tony Reeler, Daily Maverick (February 12, 2023): The assassination of Thulani Maseko is part of a troubling regional trend

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.

Africanews and AFP (February 13, 2023): Main Togo opposition party holds rally ahead of elections

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.

Nicole Winfield, Christina Malkia and Jean-Yves Kamale, AP (February 8, 2023): Pope Urges Congo Youth To Reject Corruption

Sudan General Elections: 2023 (tentative, 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.

Michael Atit, Voice of America (February 9, 2023): Western Envoys Vow to Resume Support for Sudan Transition

Bloomberg News (February 8, 2023): Russia, Western Envoys Offer Dueling Visions for Africa in Sudan

Hamza Hendawi, The National UAE (February 8, 2023): Russia’s Sergey Lavrov in Sudan as Kremlin seeks to improve relations

South Africa General Elections: May 2024 (due)

South Africa’s ANC has won every election since the end of apartheid in 1994, but it had its worst result ever in 2019, winning less than 60 percent of the vote. While South Africa is a vibrant democracy, Freedom House notes: “…in recent years, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been accused of undermining state institutions to protect corrupt officials and preserve its power as its support base has begun to wane.” Corruption remains an issue.

Geopolitically, South Africa has strong ties to Russia and China as a member of the BRICS. The three countries are hosting a joint naval exercise, much to the consternation of Europe and the United States. 

RFI (February 13, 2023): South Africa risks US ire by staging naval exercises with China and Russia

Joseph Cotterill, Financial Times (February 9, 2023): South Africa declares ‘national state of disaster’ over blackouts

Sandy Africa, The Conversation (February 8, 2023): Link between crime and politics in South Africa raises concerns about criminal gangs taking over

Michael Cohen, Bloomberg (February 7, 2023): South Africa’s Main Opposition to Weigh Tie-Up With Ruling ANC

Mali Presidential and Legislative Elections: Delayed to December 2025

Mali had set presidential and legislative elections for February 27, 2022, following the August 2020 coup, but the interim government has proposed a delay to December 2025, sparking a backlash from neighboring countries and the international community.

In the coup, soldiers removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (who has since died at age 76, having been in poor health for years), dissolved parliament (which had just been elected in April, in elections marred by fraud and intimidation) and established a transitional government.

International Crisis Group notes: “Since the coup in May 2021, Mali’s authorities have developed closer relations with Russia, now the country’s preferred military partner. In parallel, they have distanced themselves from several Western and regional partners, notably France.”

International Crisis Group (February 9, 2023): Mali: Avoiding the Trap of Isolation

AP (February 7, 2023): Lavrov pledges Russian military support on visit to Mali amid concern over abuses

Regional Analysis

Elise Ann Allen, Crux (February 8, 2023): People in Congo, South Sudan see hope for real change after papal visit

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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