Africa This Week: February 20, 2023

February 20, 2023

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

Oguta Lake in Imo State, Southeaster Nigeria. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Dolphyb (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Upcoming Africa Elections

Djibouti Legislative Elections: February 24, 2023

Djibouti is holding parliamentary elections, but they are widely considered unlikely to be free, fair, or credible. 

In the 2021 presidential election, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, who has been president since 1999, won a fifth term amid opposition boycotts and protests. Under Guelleh, Djibouti (which is strategically located on the Bab-el-Mandeb chokepoint) has been pivoting toward China, although the U.S. and other democracies continue to have military bases there.

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.

Nimi Princewill and Stephanie Busari, CNN (February 21, 2023): Nigeria is about to hold Africa’s largest democratic exercise. Here’s what to know about its presidential election

Oluwaseun Tella, Daily Maverick (February 21, 2023): This week’s presidential election in Nigeria will have a significant impact on Africa and further afield

Nic Cheeseman, Wall Street Journal (February 21, 2023): Nigeria’s Election Puts a Troubled Democracy to the Test: Young Nigerians are rallying around a candidate for change in a contest that could easily tip into unrest.

Roberta Bociaga, Nikkei Asia (February 21, 2023): China looms large over Nigeria’s presidential election: President Buhari has defended closer ties with Beijing amid opposition allegations

Stratfor (February 17, 2023): A Presidential Election in Nigeria Will Likely Entrench the Status Quo

Chris Kwaja and Joseph Sany, Ph.D., U.S. Institute of Peace (February 16, 2023): A Key Election for Nigeria Raises a Rising Demand: Inclusion

Emmanuel Remi Aiyede, The Conversation (February 16, 2023): How to poll 93 million voters – the challenge of pulling off Nigeria’s presidential elections

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.

Loni Prinsloo and Antony Sguazzin, Bloomberg (February 21, 2023): Zimbabwe Opposition Eyes Election Victory Despite Fears of Rigging

Gersende Rambourg, AFP (February 21, 2023): Zimbabwean Opposition Girds For ‘Rough’ Election

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.

Reuters (February 20, 2023): Congo Opposition Parties Say Voter Registration Flawed, Favors Ruling Coalition

AFP (February 16, 2023): DR Congo Launches Voter Registration In Violence-torn East

Senegal Presidential Election: February 2024 (due)

Long considered a stable democracy, backsliding has been taking place under President Macky Sall, who has been accused of prosecuting his political opponents on politically-motivated charges (Freedom House downgraded the country from Free to Partly Free in 2020). 

Consequently, Senegal saw violent protests in March 2021 following rape charges against former opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, and further protests in November 2021. Some are concerned that Sall could attempt to seek an unconstitutional third term

A series of oil and gas discoveries starting in 2014 have set Senegal up to become a player in energy production. Sall is a former oil executive and thus has focused on beginning production. 

AP (February 16, 2023): Senegal police smash car window, forcibly remove opposition leader

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. 

Aikande Clement Kwayu, The Conversation (February 16, 2023): Tanzania is ruled with impunity – four key issues behind calls for constitutional reform

African Union Summit

AFP (February 18, 2023): New African Union chair brings controversial record to top post

Al Jazeera (February 18, 2023): Security, trade top issues at annual African Union summit

International Crisis Group (February 14, 2023): Eight Priorities for the African Union in 2023

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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